13 user 37 critic

The Mafu Cage (1978)

Ellen has been taking care of her insane younger sister Cissy ever since their explorer father died. When Cissy's pet ape dies in their mansion's dungeon and Ellen finds a boyfriend, Cissy's incestuous desire for her sister turns deadly.


Karen Arthur


Don Chastain, Éric Wesphal (play)
1 win & 1 nomination. See more awards »




Complete credited cast:
Lee Grant ... Ellen
Carol Kane ... Cissy
Will Geer ... Zom
James Olson ... David
Budar Budar ... Mafu
William Sherwood William Sherwood ... Will (as Will Sherwood)


Two strange sisters live in a crumbling mansion, where they keep a pet ape, which belonged to their late father, locked in a cage. While one of the sisters seems to be keeping her head on straight, as it were, the other appears to be sinking further and further into barbarism and insanity. Written by frankfob2@yahoo.com

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


A Psychological Thriller See more »


Drama | Horror | Thriller


R | See all certifications »

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Referenced in Adjust Your Tracking (2013) See more »

User Reviews

Grim and uncomfortable.
18 April 2020 | by Hey_SwedenSee all my reviews

This adaptation of a play by Eric Wesphal stars Lee Grant and Carol Kane. They're cast as sisters who live in an old mansion; Kane is clearly very disturbed and is also very childlike. She pitches fits when she doesn't get her way and also resorts to emotional blackmail. Grant has a very tough time playing nursemaid to her younger sibling, but had made a promise to their dying father that she always would take care of her. When Grants' co-worker (James Olson) expresses a romantic interest in her, the thought of a man coming between them drives Kane even further into insanity.

Kane always has been a unique and remarkable performer; "eccentric" would be a kind way to put it. This independent, now somewhat obscure feature showcases her to great effect. In fact, she's all too convincing, in a role that was improvised to an extent, and which requires her to work extensively with an orangutan named Budar. Grant is no less impressive, as the kind of character that naturally earns some sympathy. It can't be easy looking after someone like Kanes' character. (Although it must be said that leaving Kane to her devices at a crucial point was a disaster waiting to happen. This viewer realizes that it's an essential part of the plot, but still doesn't exactly ring true.)

A highly engaging Will Geer, as a character named Zom, and Olson provide fine support, but "The Mafu Cage" is first and foremost a vehicle for the two talented ladies at the centre. It's also decidedly unpleasant in its psychological approach (characters take turns being victimized in the title location), and it must be said that people who take exception to animals being mistreated on film (even if the scenes had to have been simulated somehow) will want to give this film a pass.

Notable assets are the production design / set decoration (the main room of the abode has an African jungle theme), and the striking, atmospheric score composed by Roger Kellaway. This was an interesting venture for the director, Karen Arthur, who made only a few feature films over the course of her career. It even touches upon such taboo subjects as incest. Overall, it's something unusual for seekers of cinematic curiosities.

Six out of 10.

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Release Date:

September 1979 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Don't Ring the Doorbell See more »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.78 : 1
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