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The Women in Cages Collection - Blu-ray Review

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Women in Cages

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5 stars

Exploitation fans rejoice!  Shout! Factory has seen fit to bring their ongoing Roger Corman Triple Feature DVD releases to the Blu-ray market.  Their initial release is also one of their best-selling: The Women in Cages Collection.  This triple feature release features 1971’s classic of exploitation madness Women in Cages, 1971’s masterpiece of the genre Big Doll House, and 1972’s non-sequel follow-up The Big Bird Cage.  While these films aren’t for all cinematic palettes, there is a certain amount of matinee appeal to owning and celebrating the drive-in feel that is a permanent fixture in these low-budget skin flicks.

Starting with director Gerardo de León’s Women in Cages, the set kicks things off with a great example of producer Roger Corman’s eye for sexploitation.  When Carol Jeffries (Jennifer Gan) takes the fall for her boyfriend’s ship-board prostitution ring, she discovers the real rules to live by inside the all-girls prison she is sent to.  Headed by Alabama (Pam Grier), an openly sadistic lesbian prison guard, the remote prison seems to exist on a tropical island of sorts.  In spite of its remote location and the threat of poachers who are hired to hunt and kill escapees, Carol and her cellmates – Stokes (Roberta Collins), Sandy (Judy Brown), and Theresa (Sofia Moran) – plan an escape to get off the island and return to their lives.  But, first, they must survive the whips and chains and sexual lust of Alabama…

…and I’m not talking about the state.   Women in Cages is obviously shot on the fly (without a care in the world) with its flimsily constructed sets and, while (possibly) establishing the scantily-clad rules of the ‘women-in-jail’ sub-genre, won’t win any awards for its C-movie acting.  Still, the tense scenes of torture and escape keep the picture from being a total clunker and, for those not swayed by torture, there’s the beautiful Grier to gaze upon.  So, there you have it.  If anything we have this film to thank for introducing American audiences to her timeless beauty.  While it certainly is the weakest offering in this triple feature release, Women in Cages does have its mindless moments of electric mayhem.

Supreme cult director Jack Hill’s Big Doll House is next in the collection and, surprise-surprise, it’s easily the reason to snatch this release up.  Released the same year as Women in Cages, Hill’s Big Doll House succeeds where the other failed.  First, you have Grier getting more screen time, second, you have Sid Haig entering the genre, and lastly, you have Hill and Roger Corman teaming up to kick some cinematic girl-on-girl ass.  What’s not to love about this prison flick?

In a tiny cell somewhere in the Philippines, prisoners Grear (Pam Grier), Alcott (Roberta Collins), Bodine (Pat Woodell), and a heroin addict named Harrad (Brooke Mills) meet their new cellmate, Collier (Judith M. Brown), and hatch a plan to escape.  Done with fruit peddlers (Sid Haig) and nasty guards (Kathryn Loder), the girls can take no more.  The catfights are getting worse and so are the attitudes from the islanders.  Peppered with shower scenes and torture chambers and a warden named Miss Dietrich (Christiane Schmidtmer), Big Doll House delivers tenfold on its women-in-cages premise.

Director Jack Hill understands the exploitation genre (after all, this is the man who made Switchblade Sisters) and delivers on moments of hilariously uncalled-for groping, overly long shower scenes, and violence a-plenty.  Sure, it takes a strong will and a strong stomach to get through the film, but it truly is a great example of cinematic Mac-n-sleaze.  Haig’s performance is truly mesmerizing and the same goes for its cinematic grindhouse sleaze and, to some, it’s great art.  Full of fantastically stylized murder shots that feature great stabbing sequences, Big Doll House comes highly recommended for fans of the genre.

The last film of the triple feature is another from Jack Hill’s explosive filmography.  From 1972, The Big Bird Cage is about one singing duo’s immediate dissolve into guerrilla warfare.  Bad, bad Bonnie (Pam Grier) and radical-minded Django (Sid Haig) find themselves at rock bottom and, at the suggestion of their horny groupies, decide to break out a bunch of scantily-clad women from a Filipino prison to service their desires.  Co-starring Anita Ford and Andrés Centenera as their main nemesis in the part of the tyrannical warden, The Big Bird Cage gives credence to the James Brown song, “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World…”

The Big Bird Cage features a similar storyline (women in prison), a similar cast (with Grier and Haig returning), and a similar producer (Corman) and, while it isn’t as good as the previous year’s team-up, the film does feature a lot more comedic aspects than ever before.  No longer do audiences fidget with laughter because of awful acting alone, now we have episodes and lines designed to release that energy.  There’s also a bit of maturity brought to the genre as the gratuitous nudity now serves as character development.

The sexploitation genre is an excitingly hilarious and gratuitous sub-genre in film.  There are classes taught on the subject and, even today, it makes a fair amount of money with new releases and classics being remastered, fine tuned, and, now, being issues in a HD format.  Enter, if you dare, into a world where women cannot go without sex for a week.  This is the exploitatively charged world of Shout! Factory’s Women in Cages triple feature.

Few dare the journey behind bars and even fewer survive their encounter with these desperate women.  Are you man enough to go toe-to-toe with these seventies exploitation classics?

{2jtab: Film Details}

Women in CagesMPAA Rating: This title has not been rated by the MPAA.
Director
: Women in Cages: Gerardo de Leon; The Big Doll House: Jack Hill; The Big Bird Cage: Jack Hill
Writer
: Women in Cages: David Osterhout, James H. Watkins; The Big Doll House: Don Spencer; The Big Bird Cage: Jack Hill
Cast:
Women in Cages: Pam Grier; Judith Brown; Roberta Collins; Jennifer Gan; The Big Doll House: Pam Grier; Judith Brown; Roberta Collins; Brooke Mills; The Big Bird Cage: Pam Grier; Anitra Ford; Candice Roman
Genre: Action | Crime | Drama
Tagline:
Women in Cages: Naked lust that builds to a deadly climax; The Big Doll House: Their bodies were caged, but not their desires. They would do anything for a man - or to him; The Big Bird Cage: The Ultimate Breakout
Memorable Movie Quote: "What kind of hell did you crawl out of?"
Distributor:
Shout! Factory
Release Date:
Women in Cages: October 20, 1971; The Bog Doll House: June 23, 1971; The Big Bird Cage: July 1972
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
August 23, 2011

Synopsis: Women in Cages: American women prisoners in a foreign country. Sex and action.

The Bog Doll House: Female prisoners in a Phillippine jail are being subjected to sadistic torture. Five of the women--along with the help of two men--plot an escape. ;

The Big Bird Cage: Terry, a social-climbing young woman accidentally gets caught up in the activities of two revolutionaries, Blossom and Django, and finds herself in a concentration camp for women. In the center of the camp is a towering wooden machine ("The Big Bird Cage") in which the women risk their lives processing sugar as the evil warden looks on. The prisoners are subjected to sadistic cruelty from the guards and fellow prisoners, and all attempts at escape are dealt with...permanently. Terry's only hope for escape lies in Blossom and her revolutionary allies..

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The Big Doll House

Component Grades
Movie

Blu-ray Disc
5 stars

5 Stars



Blu-ray Experience
4.5 stars

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - August 23, 2011
Screen Formats: 1.85:1 NTSC Widescreen
Language
: English
Audio:

Discs: 2 Discs

Shout! Factory has done exploitation genre fans a solid with this release. The 1080p transfers are the best they’ve ever looked.  While they are high on film grain and saturation, the colors are fairly bright considering the condition of the films and their subsequent poor handling in theatres and drive-ins. Details are a bit lacking and the levels are a little wavering. Surface scratches are present, but most of the transfers are free of debris and fuzz. The sound, presented through three DTS-Master audio tracks, works well enough to be satisfactory.

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • Jack Hill provides two informative commentaries for Big Doll House and The Big Bird CageWomen in Cages has none.  Hill’s commentaries are great in digging up the dirt about Hill’s films, yet they are a bit on the drier side of things.  For fans only.

Special Features:

Shout! Factory includes a near hour long documentary about Hill’s films and Roger Corman’s partnership with him.  It’s a fascinating look at the world of exploitation filmmaking and entertaining for history buffs, too.  While each film gets a trailer and a TV Spot, there isn’t a lot more to the supplemental material.

  • From Manila With Love (50 min)
  • Two Commentary Tracks from Jack Hill (feature length)
  • ‘Women in Cages’ Trailer
  • ‘Women in Cages’ TV Spot
  • ‘Big Doll House’ Trailer
  • ‘Big Doll House’ TV Spot
  • ‘The Big Bird Cage’ Trailer
  • ‘The Big Bird Cage’ TV Spot

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