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Women in Cages
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by Brian McKay

"The not-so-great Escape . . . but at least it's got boobs."
2 stars

I never saw a Roger Corman produced piece of shlock that I didn't like - until now. Although I've often championed the cause of the 70's sexploitation flick in my ongoing series of reviews of Corman's more influential works, WOMEN IN CAGES is such a plodding, joyless mess that it's hard to find anything redeeming about it - except maybe the titties.

Like most of these Women in Prison flicks made in the 70's, Women in Cages was shot on location in the Phillipines for what was surely a paltry sum, and as usual it shows in the distinct lack of production values. But while it delivers up the requisite ammount of cheap skin titillation, both from it's american "starlets" and a constant background parade of naked Filipino girls who were probably working for significantly less than scale, it falls flat in every other department. The saving grace of these movies has never been the nudity or the cheap titillation factor - those are just a bonus. What makes these movies fun to watch is the comedy, whether it's the result of unintentional hilarity due to awful acting, or the colorful offbeat characters and occasional lines of clever dialogue that ultimately render these films much better than they have any right to be.

However, there's nothing clever about Women in Cages. There's nothing worse than a B-movie that takes itself too seriously, as it churns along while trying to actually adhere to a "plot". It certainly doesn't help matters that a cornfed bimbo like Jennifer Gan was cast in the lead part. This hulking redheaded monstrosity is about as smart as a mud-splattered country road fencepost, but not as pretty as one. Thankfully, she's the only cast member who doesn't pop out of her top, having her arms tactfully tied folded across her chest during her one nude torment scene. Bad acting is one thing - in fact, its expected in a film like this. But when the lead isn't even remotely attractive . . . well, that just won't do. Even the plainest of the Filipino extras look smoking hot compared to this unkempt amazon who could easily be confused for a drag queen.

Gan brings utter stupidity, irritating whininess, and incredible naivete to the character of "Jeff" (short for Jeffries, her last name. As for what her first name is - who gives a shit). Yet somehow we're expected to believe that she's the Steve McQueen prison break ringleader of the group. Meanwhile, Corman staples Judy Brown and Roberta Collins serve up barely adequate portrayals of Sandy and Stoke, respectively. Sandy is the junkie whore who tries to kill Jeff over and over again and, sadly, fails miserably each time. Stoke is the sexy smart ass who invites regular beatings and torments with her big mouth, as she takes special pleasure in pissing off the warden. For her troubles, she is both strapped naked to a spinning wheel, and tied spread-eagle over a burning brazier - two of the film's nudity highlights, as she has a fantastically firm set of crowd-pleasers.

Rounding out the cast are Pam Grier as the sadistic bulldyke warden Alabama, and Filipino cutie Sofia Moran as prisoner Teresa, the warden's all-too-willing sex toy. But even her perky hershey's kisses, or the extended groping she gives to Grier's gargantuan bags of chocolatey goodness, fail to stir much interest. Grier, who is usually a saving grace of these films, is disappointingly bland here, without a single remotely funny line like The Big Bird Cage's "That's MISS Nigger to you!" And while there are the scattered moments of unintentional comedy, they are so subdued and infrequent that they are ultimately rendered as forgettable as the film itself.

Where is all the funny dialogue? where is the inspiration behind the sexploitation? Where the hell is Sid Haig when you need him? WOMEN IN CAGES is simply a rote genre flick that is too dull and flaccid for camp and too poorly made to be anything more than the flimsiest of excuses to show off some breasts. And for the breasts it does show, it gets one extra star.

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originally posted: 09/21/03 05:26:15
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  20-Oct-1971 (R)
  DVD: 19-Feb-2002

  N/A (18)

  20-Oct-1971 (MA)

Directed by
  Gerardo de Leon

Written by
  Jim Osterhout
  James Watkins

  Pam Grier
  Sofia Moran
  Jennifer Gan
  Judith Brown
  Roberta Collins

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