The working-class twin sister of a callous, wealthy woman impulsively murders her out of revenge and assumes her identity. But impersonating her dead twin is more complicated and risky than she anticipated.
The lady is Mrs. Hilyard, a wealthy poetess who lives in a three-story city mansion and her cage is her elevator, which stops a dozen feet short of the main floor due to an electrical failure on a July 4th weekend. She rings her outside alarm, eventually noticed by a drunken derelict, who breaks into the house, ignores her plight and helps himself to various items and alcohol. He leaves with his loot but returns a while later with a plump prostitute and three teenage hoodlums, who proceed to terrorize Mrs. Hilyard as they wreck her home.Written by
This a great film - Olivia de Havilland is perfectly cast in the role as well-to-do old lady with perfect hair, recovering from a hip operation, and (s)mothering her vaguely effeminate son who refers to her as "Darling". Her gradual descent into insanity as she is trapped in her "cage" is chilling to watch. She goes from being an uptight fakey Joan Crawford, through to neurotic terrified Shelly Winters (her scene where she rolls her eyes around in horror is CLASSIC), until ultimately she is a crazed Bette Davis...
I loved the shot of the dead dog, and the cars whizzing by, not noticing the alarm bell ringing endlessly. The fact that the whole thing happens in daylight was a good touch. What made this film good is that I didn't know how it was going to end - it seemed just nasty enough to go all out with an amoral ending if it felt like it. No wonder if was banned in the UK when it first came out.
The inevitable comparisons to Whatever Happened to Baby Jane should be made. In some ways this is a superior film - Baby Jane always appeared a little slow and plodding, and should have been cut by about 30 minutes. Lady in A Cage is just long enough, and it kept me gripped throughout.
Forget whether or not this film is philosophy 101. It's a camp classic - and Olivia's naff poetry and observations about cities being jungles are all part of the fun. Just sit back and enjoy it.
As for James Caan - he makes a wonderful debut, which owes a LOT to Brando and Dean. He appears shirtless for a good deal of the movie, and I don't think I've ever seen a pair of tighter jeans on anyone, before or since. He's the icing that makes this movie a very fine cake.
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