Women in Cages
Director: Gerardo de Leon
Stars: Pam Grier, Roberta Collins, Judith Brown
American women prisoners in a foreign country. Sex and action.
Imagine the majority of the cast of The Big Doll House doing the same movie just in different roles and you get Women in Cages. While we still have Roberta Collins and Judith Brown as sexy prisoners, Pam Grier assumes the role of Alabama, the cruel warden of this particular prison in the Philippines. While Pam Grier is still awesome in the role and is the embodiment of the exploitation genre, she’s usually made a better prisoner than the guard. In fact, it’s kind of uncomfortable seeing Pam Grier in charge – she should be fighting the system, not BEING the system.
Women in Cages is okay as far as women in prison flicks go. There is part of a trio of Corman produced WiP films, flanked by The Big Doll House and The Big Bird Cage and it is the weakest of the three. As mentioned before, Pam Grier is rather miscast as the guard. The character of Alabama certainly has a lot of potential but would have been a better prisoner than anything else. There isn’t a lot of originality in this film, nothing that hasn’t been done better in other genre masterpieces. The only truly original thing is what the prisoners and guards refer to as “the playpen.” It’s basically a torture room for those girls that have been extra naughty. In one particularly uncomfortable scene, a girl is dangled naked while a fire is placed underneath her legs to singe her vagina. Of course Pam Grier has some inappropriately snappy one-liner about this and it really is the best scene of the movie. Of course I’m not sure if a women having her vagina set on fire being the best scene of the movie is really a good thing or not. Of course Pam Grier does have one fantastic line that is so typically Pam Grier:
Jeff: What kind of hell did you crawl out of?
Alabama: It was called Harlem, baby. I learned to survive, never have pity. This game is called survival. Let’s see how well you can play it. I was strung-out behind smack at ten and worked the streets when I was twelve. You’ve got a long way to go.
There is a plot in this film though it really doesn’t amount to much. Some officials on the outside have decided it suits their interest best if a particular girl in the prison were murdered so they promise one of the girls an early release if she murders this girl. Of course this leads top several, almost comedic moments of her attempts to complete this task. However, when the film’s central plot serves as little more than a diversion to everything else, you’re not doing things correctly. Then again, this is an exploitation film so the same rules don’t really apply. After all, the movie is more about the sensationalism of torturing women in prison and sexy girls fighting for their freedom. The whole purpose of exploitation flicks is the themes and feel of the movie rather than any story it tells. In this regard, Women in Cages doesn’t fail. Oh, its not the best in the genre, but it has the right idea. The movie does deliver on its promise: “American women prisoners in a foreign country. Sex and action.’
I do have one really minor complaint to voice about this film. it may just have been my DVD copy of the movie but the sound editing was downright awful – really BAD ADR overdubs over silence made the movie sound like the ear-raping sounds of Birdemic. Well, that’s a huge exaggeration. I wasn’t too bothered by the sound in this movie – but I just feel like being nit-picky because I’m not a huge fan of Women in Cages and am pretty much grasping at straws to find something to discredit it.
While Women in Cages is one of the better entries in the Women in Prison subgenre, it really is just for completionists or avid fans. You can get the same experience and feel that Women in Cages offers by watching The Big Doll House or The Big Bird Cage instead – and have more fun too. This movie is pretty lazy and barely worth the 90 minutes of my life it consumed. But – if you like vagina fires then, by all means, get all over this movie.