DVD Review: The Women In Cages Collection

What can be a better way of starting summer than a triple feature of a sweaty Pam Grier in Filipino prisons? Who doesn’t want to do hard time with her behind bars? Roger Corman didn’t invent the women in prison genre, but he was able to make the criminal rehabilitation process a box office hit. After the installation of the MPAA ratings, the women in prison genre became free to express themselves. No longer did filmmakers have to hide behind innuendo and obscured shots to tease an audience and please the censors. They could give an R-rated look behind the walls. Inmates could finally group shower with full frontal soaping. Roger Corman’s Cult Classics Triple Feature: The Women In Cages Collection guaranteed to turn your TV into a hotbox.

The Big Doll House (1971 – 94 minutes) takes us into the dark world of an exotic women’s penitentiary. Judy Brown arrives at the prison having killed her husband. She meets her five new cellmates that are up for everything from drugs to spreading revolution. She finds herself clashing quickly with Pam Grier in the confined space. Pam likes marking her territory including her smacked out girlfriend (Brooke Mills). The ladies all despise the sadistic Kathyrn Loder (Foxy Brown). She’s as mean as they come with her hair pulled back except when she’s in the heat of dishing out punishment. The only hope for the ladies to escape involve produce salesman Sid Haig (Devil’s Rejects). He gets the thrill of an intimate scene with Pam and stripping down to his tightie whities in the jungle. Pam sings the theme song. She sounds really good. Weird that she wasn’t given a chance to sing the theme songs to her other various films during this era. The Big Doll House delivers as a pleaser to the sleazy theater crowd.

Women in Cages (1971 – 81 minutes) flips Pam Grier’s role. She’s no longer the inmate, but the sadistic lesbian guard that has her way with the inmates. She will break their wills until they become her playmates. She is absolutely wicked in her torture chamber. She could have been the next Vincent Price. The heroine of the movie is Jennifer Gan. She’s the patsy for her creepy boyfriends vice ship that treats its passengers to gambling, drugs and hookers. She’s sent off to a prison with the understanding that her boyfriend will bust her out. Her best friend turns out to be a heroin addicted Roberta Collins (The Big Dollhouse & Caged Heat). The ladies plot to escape except they’re oblivious that a cellmate is Pam Grier’s lover. Their romantic scene involves a bullwhip. Women In Cages has a different feel from the other two titles since it was directed by Filipino legend Gerardo de Leon.

The Big Bird Cage (1972 – 95 minutes) puts Pam in the role of a revolutionary. She and Sid Haig rob a nightclub. Sid snags Anitra Ford as a hostage. When he dumps her to escape the law, she’s sent off to prison for being part of the gang. She can’t believe her fate since she’d slept with so many government officials. But there’s no phone calls from the remote prison. The Big Bird Cage is a machine that processes the sugar cane harvested by the prisoners. Occasionally the machine processes prisoners that snitch. When Pam gets caught in an assassination attempt, she’s shipped off to the prison. It’s up to Sid to rescue his woman using a plot to distract the head guard.. Vic Diaz was robbed of Oscar glory as the gay guard who wants nothing to do with the ladies, but is all eyes for Sid. These two are hilarious together. There’s a bit more comedy in The Big Bird Cage than the previous two flicks. This makes it perfect for the finale of a long hot sweaty night in a women’s prison.

The Blu-ray of Roger Corman’s Cult Classics Triple Feature: The Women In Cages Collection is scheduled for August 23. It’s a hard call as to whether to get the DVD or wait for the Blu-ray. Can you really last nearly all summer without experiencing this triple threat? That’s a form of cruel and unusual punishment. You might want to get both so you can enjoy the Blu-rays at home and watch the DVDs in the mini-van while hangingout the kid’s soccer practice.

The video is 1.78:1 anamorphic for all three films. The transfers look better than when these films ran at your local drive-in. The vibrancy of the Filipino jungles and the oppressiveness of the prisons dazzle on the screen. You can reach out and touch the sweat on Pam Grier’s brow. The audio is mono, but sounds so much better than the previous DVD releases. This is an impressive restoration job.

Audio Commentary with Jack Hill on The Big Dollhouse and The Big Bird Cage. He admits that Big Bird Cage is a spoof of the women in prison genre since the market had been flooded after The Big Dollhouse. He does a fine job of giving background of the film and the cast.

From Manila With Love (48:58) gives the stories behind the making of The Big Dollhouse and The Big Bird Cage. All the key players appear except Pam Grier. It was a good, fast sweaty time for most of the people.

Interview with Star Judy Brown (7:12) is a longer chat with the actress. Turns out she was a recording artist as a teen with Glen Campbell on the session.

The Big Doll House Trailer (2:14) and TV Spot (0:55) promises all the wickedness.

Women in Cages Trailer (1:30) and TV Spot (1:00) “rips the veil off the dirtiest racket ever conceived by minds of vicious men.”

The Big Bird Cage Trailer (2:45) and TV Spot (1:08) sells us on the Pam Grier action. The TV ad must have been kept from airing during family hours.

Gallery contains publicity stills and behind the scenes pics from the three films.

Roger Corman’s Cult Classics Triple Feature: The Women In Cages Collection is this summer’s must buy title. This is perfect for a hot, sweaty night by the TV. The films stick to basic formulas for what goes on behind the prison walls. They’re plenty of showering, torture, loving, drugs and insanity. But they’re not cookie cutter plots. Each one has its twist on the action. Pam Grier doesn’t play the same character. She displays her range as prisoner, revolutionary and guard. The bonus features add to the appreciation of this trio of cinematic confinement.

Shout! Facotry presents Roger Corman’s Cult Classics Triple Feature: The Women In Cages Collection. Directed by: Jack Hill and Gerardo de Leon. Starring: Pam Grier, Sid Haig and Judy Brown. Boxset Contents: 3 movies on 2 DVDs. Rating: R. Released on DVD: June 21, 2011. Available at Amazon.com.

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