When The Big Doll House became a smash hit, it opened the flood­gates for wom­en in pris­on films.  Anyone who could get a cam­era crew to the Philippines or anoth­er sim­i­lar­ly cost-effec­tive loca­tion start­ed grind­ing out “babes behind bars” epics that delight­ed the dri­ve-in crowd.  Producer Roger Corman, nev­er one to bypass a trend, set Women In Cages into the pro­duc­tion hot on the heels of The Big Doll House and even retained three of its stars — Judy Brown, Roberta Collins and Pam Grier — to fill out the cast.  The result was a dif­fer­ent kind of wom­en-in-pris­on film from its pre­de­ces­sor: tougher, faster and shock­ing­ly grim.

The nar­ra­tive offers a con­cen­trat­ed dose of bad-vibes sleaze.  Jeff (Jennifer Gans) is our pret­ty but dan­ger­ous­ly naïve hero­ine, who gets sent to pris­on when her rat-fink boyfriend Rudy (Charlie Davao) sets her up to take the rap for some drugs that actu­al­ly belong to him.  She finds her­self in an arche­typ­al jun­gle hell­hole where a bru­tal ex-American matron named Alabama (Pam Grier!) runs the show with sadis­tic delight.  When she isn’t dri­ving the inmates to the break­ing point in the cane fields, she’s either sleep­ing with them in her boudoir or bru­tal­iz­ing them in a tor­ture cham­ber right out of Mark Of The Devil.

Lost in a daze, Jeff tries to get along with her cell­mates, which include tough but decent Sandy (Brown), hard-luck junkie Stoke (Roberta Collins) and Theresa (Sofia Moran), who is Alabama’s cur­rent noc­tur­nal play­thing.  Unfortunately, Rudy has real­ized that Jeff needs to get killed before she can wise up — and he puts the squeeze on Stoke, offer­ing drugs in exchange for Jeff’s mur­der.  Meanwhile, Jeff real­izes she must bust out of pris­on and hatch­es a plan.  She and her cell­mates bust out with Alabama in tow as a hostage — but there are sev­er­al miles of dan­ger­ous jun­gle to cross as well as lethal “track­ers” on their trail — and when they reach civ­i­liza­tion, fate has more sur­pris­es in store for our belea­guered inmates.

Women In Cages is often thought of by b-movie buffs as a lesser expe­ri­ence than The Big Doll House or The Big Bird Cage because it lacks the satir­i­cal wit, char­ac­ter depth and the­mat­ic ambi­tions of those films.  While Women In Cages can’t com­pete on those lev­els, it isn’t designed to — and that kind of judg­ment ignores what an effec­tive lit­tle pro­gram­mer it is.  It is best viewed as an alter­na­tive take on the gen­re: what­ev­er this film lacks in com­plex­i­ty, it makes up for with blunt force sleaze.

Director Gerardo De Leon sim­ply goes for the throat, pil­ing on the sleaze and vio­lence with glee.  He bal­ances the high lev­el of sleaze with an appro­pri­ate­ly over-the-top look­ing, fram­ing it all in com­po­si­tions that fall halfway between comic-book pan­el and men’s mag­a­zine cov­er.  The tor­ture sce­nes in par­tic­u­lar have a very speci­fic, fetishized S&M fan­ta­sy look to them.  De Leon also knows pac­ing is cru­cial and he keeps his dense­ly plot­ted sto­ry rolling out at a relent­less pace stud­ded with slap-in-the-face shocks.  He even throws in a supreme­ly cru­el coda that clos­es the sto­ry out on with a gut-punch lev­el of nas­ti­ness.  The over­all effect is not unlike the wom­en-in-pris­on films of Jesus Franco and Bruno Mattei but made with high­er lev­els of style and con­sis­ten­cy.

Better yet, De Leon under­stands that the melo­dra­ma and emo­tions much be cranked up as high as the sex and vio­lence for an enter­prise like this to work — and he gets the kind of per­for­mances nec­es­sary.  Gans is decent as the doe-eyed hero­ine, kind of like Alice if she end­ed up in a sleaze-movie pris­on instead of Wonderland.  Brown is also good as the essen­tial­ly hero­ic Sandy, who can still have a nasty moment — look out for the scene where she goads Theresa into a fight over her rela­tion­ship with Alabama.

However, the movie real­ly belongs to Grier and Collins.  Grier gives a grand vil­lain­ous diva per­for­mance as the film’s wicked matron, cre­at­ing a char­ac­ter is fueled pure­ly by hatred and spews her ven­om when­ver she gets the chance (she gets a choice mono­logue near the mid­way point where she explains how she end­ed up this way).  Collins match­es her note for melo­dra­mat­ic note as Stoke, play­ing again­st her usu­al charm­ing style to cre­ate an intense, bug-eyed por­trait of addic­tion-dri­ven deceit.  She digs into the melo­dra­ma with total con­vic­tion, mak­ing her char­ac­ter the sleaze movie ver­sion of the “trag­ic bad girl” char­ac­ter you often see in Douglas Sirk films.

In short, Women In Cages is a deli­cious­ly cru­el slab of b-movie sleaze.  It only takes 80 min­utes to watch but even the hardi­est schlock mavens will feel wind­ed by the time the end cred­its roll.

The Women In Cages Collection [Triple Feature]

The Women In Cages Collection [Triple Feature]

The Women In Cages Collection — Triple Feature       Pam Grier (Jackie Brown) joins a group of sexy, young female pris­on­ers in their strug­gle again­st a sadis­tic war­den in Big Doll House. This shock­ing­ly real film is per­haps one of the most influ­en­tial of all wom­en-in-pris­on films! Also star­ring Judy Brown, Roberta Collins (Death Race 2000) and Sid Haig (House Of 1,000 Corpses). Directed by Jack Hill (Spider Baby, Foxy Brown).Innocent Carol Jeffries (Jennifer Gan, Naked Angels) is framed by her drug-deal­ing boyfriend and ends up in a tough pris­on in the Philippines jun­gle in Women In Cages. She must face off again­st the sadis­tic war­den, Alabama (Pam Grier), who takes great plea­sure in alter­nate­ly seduc­ing and tor­tur­ing her pris­on­ers. Also star­ring Judy Brown and Roberta Collins. Directed by Gerry De Leon (Mad Doctor Of Blood Island).Inside the hell­ish women’s pris­on called The Big Bird Cage, inmates like Terry (Anitra Ford, The Price Is Right) strug­gles to sur­vive. They get their chance to escape when schem­ing rev­o­lu­tion­ary Blossom (Pam Grier) engi­neers a pris­on break … from the out­side in. Also star­ring Carol Speed (Abby). Directed by Jack Hill.






The Women In Cages Collection [Triple Feature] (Blu-ray)

The Women In Cages Collection [Triple Feature] (Blu-ray)

The Women In Cages Collection — Triple Feature       Pam Grier (Jackie Brown) joins a group of sexy, young female pris­on­ers in their strug­gle again­st a sadis­tic war­den in Big Doll House. This shock­ing­ly real film is per­haps one of the most influ­en­tial of all wom­en-in-pris­on films! Also star­ring Judy Brown, Roberta Collins (Death Race 2000) and Sid Haig (House Of 1,000 Corpses). Directed by Jack Hill (Spider Baby, Foxy Brown).Innocent Carol Jeffries (Jennifer Gan, Naked Angels) is framed by her drug-deal­ing boyfriend and ends up in a tough pris­on in the Philippines jun­gle in Women In Cages. She must face off again­st the sadis­tic war­den, Alabama (Pam Grier), who takes great plea­sure in alter­nate­ly seduc­ing and tor­tur­ing her pris­on­ers. Also star­ring Judy Brown and Roberta Collins. Directed by Gerry De Leon (Mad Doctor Of Blood Island).Inside the hell­ish women’s pris­on called The Big Bird Cage, inmates like Terry (Anitra Ford, The Price Is Right) strug­gles to sur­vive. They get their chance to escape when schem­ing rev­o­lu­tion­ary Blossom (Pam Grier) engi­neers a pris­on break … from the out­side in. Also star­ring Carol Speed (Abby). Directed by Jack Hill.