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The Big Bird Cage 1972
Description: Grier and Haig are thieving mercenaries who engineer a prison break from the outside.
Released: 01 Jul 1972 Director: Jack Hill Writers: Jack Hill Actors: Pam Grier, Anitra Ford, Candice Roman, Teda Bracci Genres: Action, Crime, Drama
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The Big Bird Cage Reviews:

This was the third girls in prison (WIP) film produced by Roger Corman's Fresh Globe Pictures within just two years, beginning with THE BIG DOLL HOUSE and WOMEN IN CAGES, both released in 1971. In spite of the related titles, there's no narrative connection between BIRD CAGE and DOLL HOUSE, though the movies were soon shrewdly retitled `Women's Penitentiary I' and `II' by distributors who hoped every movie would capitalize on the other's popularity. Director Jack Hill, who also helmed DOLL HOUSE, tells Corman hired him to create a sequel, but since the WIP category had already become formulaic and predictable, Hill played up the humor and delivered a parody instead. Like DOLL HOUSE, the movie details Pam Grier and Sid Haig in prominent roles and was shot in the Philippines. This time, Hill makes much better test of both actors as well as the pretty locations.Perhaps the film is greatest remembered as the screen debut of Anitra Ford, the exotically pretty model who turned quite a several heads as well as price tags on television's THE PRICE IS RIGHT minigame show. She plays Terry, an American tourist visiting a Central American banana republic where her indiscreet flirtations with the prime minister receive her in problem with the governing party. She's sent to a bamboo shack prison for girls staffed exclusively by gay guards and centered around a towering, archaic-looking sugar cane mill, the `big bird cage' of the title. The warden (Andy Centenera) designed the structure himself and is more than willing to sacrifice a several of his charges actually and then to hold it in working order. At one point, an unfortunate prisoner is crushed to death when she's forced to crawl under the contraption to reposition a gigantic, misaligned cog. Prisoners who lose their wits are permanently confined in a cage for `crazies' while those who attempt to escape are tracked down by attack dogs. Regardless, Terry makes a run for it and nearly gets gang raped in the process. When the effeminate head guard Rocco (Vic Diaz, who has been named `the Peter Lorre of the Philippines') catches up to her as she's being molested by half a dozen local men, he dryly comments, `Why doesn't that ever happen to me?' As punishment for her attempted escape, Terry's left hanging from a rope tied to her long, dark tresses. Talk about having a terrible hair day!The another inmates are the usual batch of rag mark stereotypes. There's the butch top dog (Teda Bracci), the sex starved nymph (Candice Roman), and a pathetic fresh child (Marissa Delgado) who's befriended and championed by the heroine. The most original hero is an Amazonian lesbian (Karen McKevic) who's supposedly so violent she gotta be chained to her bed, though she looks more like an unusually tall anorexic. She seems to have been included strictly for laughs: in one especially silly scene, she smears chicken fat over her body hoping to slip past her another cell friends so she can receive her hands on a teasing tormentor.Curiously, the most entertaining parts of the movie don't involve the prisoners but rather a nearby group of revolutionaries led by Blossom (Grier) and Django (Haig). Neither actor has ever been more appealing in any role and they work brilliantly together. In the opening scene, they pose as musicians in a local band to burglarize a seedy nightclub and Grier now sings on the soundtrack. Later, they wrestle in the mud before kissing and making up. As they noisily create love in a hut, other bandit ruefully comments, `What an units we should raise if we only had a lot of women.... Where should we search [so many] girls to steal?' Thus are the unlikely seeds of a prison break sewn!Haig is hilarious in the scenes where Django `camps it up' flirting with the guards to weasel his method into the prison staff and Grier leads the eventual riot with her usual gusto. The movie details lots of action including a fiery finale. There's also quite a bit of nudity, though unfortunately only a several brief glimpses of foxy Ms. Ford in the buff. She shows a bit more skin in her next two films, INVASION OF THE BEE GIRLS and STACEY (both 1973).


Jack Hill's follow-up (but not a sequel) to his earlier 'The Large Doll House' is a much more confident and enjoyable movie. Hill wrote as well as directed this one and I think that makes a globe of difference. The primary model of the earlier movie is followed but Hill shrewdly saw that the handful of scenes between Pam Grier and Sid Haig in that film showed plenty of potential, so this time round he casts them as singing Revolutionary lovers (yeah baby!), an inspired transport that really makes this one something special. The foxy Anitra Ford ('Invasion Of The Bee Girls') plays a sassy hero who crosses their paths early in the movie during a robbery. Super cool Django (Haig) takes a fancy to her but before he can do anything about it she is arrested and sent to a brutal prison. (I could mission out that even though this movie, like the others in this short-lived 1970s cycle, was filmed in the Philippines, it is set in some nameless Banana Republic). Before too long Grier also finds herself in the same compound, which is dominated by "the bird cage", a strange contraption the girls are forced to work on as punishment. Django cooks up a nutty plan to save her by pretending to be gay to ingratiate himself with one of the camps (very camp) guards Rocco, played by Vic Diaz, who soon reunited with Haig and Grier in 'Black Mama White Mama'. This is a wonderful piece of entertainment overall and a guaranteed hoot! Personally I would tell it is only rivalled by 'Caged Heat' and 'Chained Heat' as far as girls in prison exploitation films go. Highly suggested fun.


When it comes to Girls In Prison movies, I usually wish 'em to be as sleazy and as violent as possible, but director Jack Hill's WIP flicks look set to be an exception to this rule: The Large Bird Cage, his second foray in the category (after The Large Doll House), is a gloriously camp exercise in trash cinema, occasionally tasteless but presented with such a goofy sense of humour that it proves to be far less offensive than many of its contemporaries and almost impossible not to enjoy.Set in an unnamed 'banana republic' (but shot in the Philipines), the movie opens with pretty brunette social climber Terry (the belly-licious Anitra Ford), a close private 'friend' (i.e., lover) of the president, being abducted by revolutionary Django (Sid Haig) during a daring robbery. To avoid capture by the law, Django resorts to leaping off a bridge, leaving terrible Terry to be apprehended by the police, after which she is accused of being an accomplice in the crime; this presents the authorities with a convenient occasion to rid themselves of Terry, a potential embarrassment for the government, by shipping her to a high safety camp where unruly prisoners are forced to do risky work in a towering, wooden sugar mill—the 'Bird Cage' of the title.Meanwhile, Django, his feisty girl Blossom (busty Blaxploitation queen Pam Grier) and their revolutionary pals continue to plan their political uprising. Concluding that their cause would benefit immensely from the recruitment of more gutsy females like Blossom, they place into motion a scheme that involves Blossom getting herself incarcerated in the same establishment as Terry, and Django going undercover as a camp guard (and I do mean 'camp'—all of the guards are homosexuals so as not to tempt the prisoners).With his tongue firmly planted in cheek, director Hill delivers everything one might expect from such a set-up—umpteen cat-fights (some in mud), the lesbian inmate, a sadistic warden, the camp informant, the tragic deaths of few prisoners, and an eventual uprising—plus, of course, lots of lovely girls wearing very short shorts (I like short shorts!) and ill-fitting garments that frequently expose their breasts. All these lovely ladies AND Sid Haig as a hot-blooded revolutionary who gotta pretend to be gay to save the day = an unmissable treat for WIP fans!



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