Released by: Shout! Factory
Released on: 6/21/2011
Director: Jack Hill, Gerry DeLeon
Cast: Pam Grier and lots of hot chicks (see review)
Purchase from Amazon
The latest installment in Shout! Factory’s wonderful “Roger Corman’s Cult Classics” series delivers a 2-disc set with three movies only exploitation fans can love, chock-filled with sex-starved women and bouncing boobies. Get ready for some American-made 70’s-style Women in Prison flicks.
Big Doll House
(1971) directed by Jack Hill; starring Pam Grier, Judy Brown, Brook Mills, Roberta Collins, Sid Haig; 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen; 2.0 Dolby Digital
A bunch of women are held in a jungle prison and sentenced to hard labor. Collier (Judy Brown, Slaughter’s Big Rip-Off
) is a foxy red-head sent to the big doll house on the charge of murdering her husband. She quickly meets her fellow inmates: Alcott (Roberta Collins, Death Race 2000
), Grear (Pam Grier, Foxy Brown
), Grear’s heroin junkie girlfriend Harrad (Brooke Mills, Freaky Friday
), and Bodine (Pat Woodell of Petticoat Junction
fame). After being subjected to torturous punishments, fighting in the mud, getting sprayed with fire hoses, taking a shower, and major maltreatment by the evil head warden Lucian, played with zeal by Kathryn Loder (and all under the watchful eye of a hooded spectator), the fed up ladies decided to break out. With the help of the vegetable delivery guys played for comic relief by Sid Haig (Coffy
) and some dude who’s never been in anything since, they work out their plan of escape, which will surely end in violence and destruction.
Women In Cages
(1971) directed by Gerry DeLeon; starring Pam Grier, Judy Brown, Roberta Collins, Jennifer Gan; 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen; 2.0 Dolby Digital
Tall, dumb, American, and blonde-haired Carol (called “Jeff”) is tricked into to holding drugs by her gangster boyfriend and as a result gets ten years in a jungle prison and sentenced to hard labor. Jeff (Jennifer Gan, mostly a TV one-shot actor) quickly meets her fellow inmates: Sandy (Judy Brown, Big Doll House
), heroin junkie Stoke (Roberta Collins, Big Doll House
), Theresa (Sofia Moran), whose having a lesbian affair with the prison warden Alabama (Pam Grier, Big Doll House
). After being subjected to torturous punishments, fighting on the lunch table, getting sprayed with fire hoses, taking a shower, and major maltreatment by the sadistic and hateful warden, the fed up ladies decided to break out. They may have different plans up their sleeves than each other is aware of, but they all make for the hills together.
The Big Bird Cage
(1972) directed by Jack Hill; starring Pam Grier, Sid Haig, Anitra Ford, Candace Roman, Vic Diaz; 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen; 2.0 Dolby Digital
Tall, sultry, American, and amazing-haired Terry (Anitra Ford, Invasion of the Bee Girls
) gets caught in the wrong place at the wrong time in a seedy nightclub, getting swept up in the hysteria of a robbery and ends up in a jungle prison and sentenced to hard labor. She quickly meets her fellow inmates: Carla (Candace Roman, who was only in one other movie after this one), Bull (Teda Bracci, C.C. and Company
), Mickie (Carol Speed, Abby
), Marissa Delgado (who’s still working in film and television in the Philippines), and seven-foot tall Karen McKevic as Karen (her only film role, surprisingly). The mercenaries who got Terry plopped into prison decide to break her out. Blossom (Pam Grier, Friday Foster
) gets her self landed in the prison, and Jango (Sid Haig, Savage Sisters
) gets a job as a guard. Incidentally, the guards are all homosexuals, which is played for laughs. Vic Diaz (the so-called Filipino Peter Lorre) plays a flamboyant guard and steals the show. After being subjected to torturous punishments, a giant mud fight, taking a shower, fire hose soaking, and major maltreatment by the sadistic and hateful warden, the fed up ladies decided to break out.
All three films have an obvious commonality and are quite similar, following the same formula but with little differences. Big Doll House
seems to be credited as the making the mold these films all followed, although it was not the first one of its kind. By comparison, Women In Cages
seems much more violent and brutal, and the end is quite the downer. The ending also has a somewhat disturbing, topless young girl who cannot possibly
be of legal age, at least in the U.S. The Big Bird Cage
is played more over-the-top than either (which makes it the winner on this set at least in this writer’s opinion), mixing violence and sleaze with some satire.
These were all filmed on location in the Philippines; The Big Bird Cage
was filmed in the same spot where Colonel Kurtz had his compound in Apocalypse Now
a few years later. Things certainly have an exotic look to them, which helps add to the sense of isolation all three films share. All three also share great camera work and lighting (maybe they all had the same crew).
Aside from the lush locations, the eye candy in these flicks is also courtesy of the ladies. Most of the ones you want to see in the buff come through, and most of the ones you don’t want to see thankfully keep the clothes on. There’re plenty of mud fights, shower scenes, lesbian frolics, and even some full frontal nudity to keep the pervs smiling. There’s not a ton of blood shed, and a lot of the violence is not actually shown (like a crotch burning torture scene) which may turn off those seeking a high gore quota. American made WiP flicks of the 70s weren’t as violent and sleazy as their European counterparts, so if your tastes lean toward that side these may seem a bit tamer. They’re full of brutality, nudity, rape, and humiliation, just don’t expect to see nipples sliced off.
And of course the talent in these movies is worthy of mention too. Tons of genre actors show up, and as many are well aware this was Pam Grier’s launching pad. She eats up every scene she’s in and it’s no surprise why so many people adore her. And check out her nose in Big Doll House
as compared to The Big Bird Cage
…big difference. Sid Haig is great as Jango, Judy Brown smoked up the screen whenever she was on, Anitra Ford makes you jaw drop she’s so beautiful, and Vic Diaz should have had his own sequel.
The Women In Cages Collection
serves up three great Women in Prison movies, three Pam Grier movies, and hours of solid entertainment.
All three movies have new transfers with an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen and they look fantastic. Colors look vibrant, black levels are deep, the image looks clean, but with plenty of grain is it should. Little pieces of dirt here and there and the occasional cigarette burn just can be seen from time to time. That said, these transfers are miles above any versions this writer has seen of any of the films. Take a look below at a comparison between the new Shout! transfer and the New Concorde one from the 2001 disc.
The audio on all three films is a 2.0 Dolby Digital track, and it sounds great. Minor pops here and there, specifically in Women In Cages
, but that’s no doubt from the print and not disc trouble. The liner notes mention they used the only available source material for that particular movie and it wasn’t pristine. Also mentioned is how they did a lot of the dialogue in post production for these movies and that the lip sync may be slightly off at times. At any rate, the balance seems fine and there do not appear to be any issues.
As with most of the releases in this series, there are a good bunch of extras to pour through. Disc One includes a documentary “From Manila With Love” (48:58), which covers both Jack Hill films on the set, complete with interviews from the actors and director. It’s a great feature and is yet another reason to grab this collection. Also on the disc is an interview with Judy Brown (7:12), which is an interesting watch. The feature on this disc has an audio commentary by Jack Hill, which was brought over from the New Concorde 2001 version. Also included is the theatrical trailer and the tv trailer, and finally a an image gallery, with behind the scenes and publicity photos for all three films in the collection. Disc Two has the trailer and tv spot for each feature, and The Big Bird Cage
has an audio commentary track by director Jack Hill, ported over from the New Concorde version of that film. Both commentaries are fantastic. He conveys so much great info on making the movies and gives good tidbits of trivia. For example, Pam Grier sang the credits song on Big Doll House. Or how Kathryn Loder nearly died due to a diabetic episode (which sadly took her life before she was 40). And his the fact that his own father designed the actual big birdcage which was fully functional. Both commentaries are well worth the time spent with them. Also worthy of note is the packaging. There’s a great publicity photo on the inside of the cover and liner notes with movie posters. A nice added touch.
The Final Word:
An easy winner. Highly recommended if not required