Pam's No Hope Emerson But Still Pretty Darn Good
For those viewers who are accustomed to cheering on the antics of cult actress Pam Grier on screen, her character in 1972's "Women in Cages" may come as something of a surprise. Far from her bodacious, sympathetic action heroine, she here plays as nasty a personage as can be imagined: a pot-smoking, white race-hating, lesbian sadist from Harlem named Alabama, who is the matron in an exceptionally sleazy Filipino prison for women. Fans of this type of film--a subgenre that includes other New World films such as "The Big Doll House" ('71) and "The Big Bird Cage" ('72), both with Grier--know what to expect from such: nude shower scenes, sadistic but lovely prison guards, a handful of gorgeous inmates and over-the-top action sequences. While not as much fun as the other two films just named, "Women in Cages" does still provide the requisite goods, and Pam stakes her claim to be placed in the pantheon of such classic female jailers as Dyanne Thorne in the "Ilsa" films, Barbara Steele as the crippled warden in "Caged Heat" ('74), and my favorite, the grotesque matron that Hope Emerson plays in "Caged" ('50). In addition to Pam, the film boasts the presence of cult favorite Roberta Collins, as a smack-addicted rat fink; several catfights; vermin (of the snake, rat, leech and Filipino bounty hunter/rapist varieties); torture by fire, whip, rack, wheel and electricity; AND an oceangoing brothel. Though I still prefer the underrated Grier films "The Arena" ('73) and especially "Black Mama, White Mama" ('72) to this one, "Women in Cages" still proved an entertaining diversion.
- Nov 29, 2007
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