Another day, another women in prison flick. After watching Big Doll House and Women in Cages it’s now up to Jack Hill and Pam Grier to team up with Sid Haig once more to bring me another exploitation movie about imprisoned women. The so-called chicks ’n chains, or as the tagline for the movie states: “Women so hot with desire they melt the chains that enslave them!”. Which is funny as almost none of the women is ever in chains. But who cares?
This time things are a little different. Less soaping in the bathroom and more plot. Now who would’ve expected that?
Certainly not me. For once this movie is a little bit more than just the standard plot these movies usually have:
- Woman gets arrested
- Woman goes to prison
- Woman is tortured by the sadistic warden
- Woman escapes with a couple of inmates
- The end.
They do have a plot like this in here with the character of Terry (Anitra Ford). She gets arrested and is sent to prison because she’s believed to belong to a group of revolutionists. which of course isn’t the case. These revolutionists led by Django (Sid Haig) and Blossom (Pam Grier) come up with the plan to expand their group by taking over the female prison near by. These women can join their group and supply the group with children. So Pam gets the honor of getting in prison on purpose and set things in motion from there.
So for once we get two plotlines for the price of one in a genre like this.
The Big Bird Cage is better than most of the movies in this genre. It’s filled with memorable characters which are actually original. No sadistic wardens with secret torture chambers this time to name one cliché. But that doesn’t mean the girls get off easy. There’s a particularly nasty scene in which one of the girls, who tried to escape, is hung by her hair. She survives, but damn that’s got to hurt.
Now what also makes it rise above the competition is the humor in the characters. This movie was more busy to entertain us than trying to do justice to the term exploitation. The movie has some funny dialogue and Sid Haig is absolutely hilarious every minute he graces the screen. He excells when he’s impersonating to be gay. He had me on the floor every time. Comedic gold.
So a male cast-member is the best thing in a women-to-prison film, but what did you expect; the entire female cast consists of models. They’re here to look good, nothing more. Even Pam Grier is still a diamond in the rough (and she would still be in movies like Coffy and Foxy Brown).
One recurring factor in this genre is nudity. These movies were a simple excuse to let men watch a movie full of beautiful women getting naked and fight each other. Like in Big Doll House Jack Hill isn’t interested in just nudity for the sake of nudity. Sure, there are lots of breasts here (and even a bit of bush) and there but nothing really gratuitous like minute long shower scenes. With two plotlines the movie doesn’t need those scenes even though we all appreciate them. One scene I didn’t really like: a tall inmate has an ongoing beef with another inmate. She strips down naked and covers herself in chicken fat. But this girl, a model for christ’s sake, has really freaky saggy tits if you can even call them tits. There are tons of ther women in this movie with more beautiful breasts than hers, and they don’t even get naked… not even Pam. You read that right, this is probably the one early 70’s movie that Pam didn’t show her goods. She sports a lot of cleavage, but she doesn’t give us the boobs…
Like all of these movies the tight budget makes things on occasion (unintentionally) hilarious. There’s quite an impressive scene at the end where all sorts of cabins go up in fire which actually looks professionally done, followed by a scene of a burning piece of wood falling on the warden. They probably had not idea how to shoot this so they solved this in a very funny way. This is part of the end sequence in the film. This sequence is very schizophrenic whether it’s day or night. The sequence cuts between scenes about the prison ground and scenes in the jungle. One is clearly shot at night the other at dawn. It’s stuff like that that are part of the charm. I also liked the two gay guards and how eventually one ended up getting raped by Carla (Candice Roman), who was longing for dick the entire movie. When he screams Jones (Teda Bracci) lifts her skirt and sits on his face. Remember, this is 1972 and shaving wasn’t a trend yet. So they really tortured that guard.
This movie will probably be forgotten totally one day, like most sleaze from decades ago. It’s partially justified as this remains a trashy movie, no matter how funny it is. My guess is that would this not have been a Grier-Hill collaboration it would’ve probably been forgotten already.