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  Big Bird Cage, The Put Through The Mill
Year: 1972
Director: Jack Hill
Stars: Pam Grier, Anitra Ford, Candice Roman, Teda Bracci, Carol Speed, Karen McKevic, Sid Haig, Marissa Delgado, Vic Diaz, Andres Centenera, Rizza Fabian, Subas Herrero, Wendy Green
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Action, Thriller, TrashBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Terry (Anitra Ford) is a burgeoning socialite with a past that includes more than a couple of the politicians of this Pacific island state, and there are those who would like to see her out of the way. As luck would have it for Terry's enemies, one evening she visits a nightclub where a live band performs, but when they get to the end of their song, singer Blossom (Pam Grier) starts arguing with guitarist Django (Sid Haig) about his out of tune playing. Suddenly, the situation escalates and Blossom smashes the guitar - to reveal a machine gun concealed inside as the band have planned a robbery. They fleece the patrons of their cash and valuables and Django decides to take Terry along with him, but the others drive away without them. Django then comandeers a taxi, and Terry isn't too bothered about being kidnapped, but with the police in hot pursuit will they get away?

After the groundbreaking - for the exploitation movie producers, at any rate - release of The Big Doll House, that film's creator Jack Hill was encouraged by Roger Corman's New World outfit to make a sequel. Unfortunately, by the time he got around to writing it the women in prison genre was already saturated with imitators and so Hill settled on a send up instead. That's his story anyway, but the supposedly comic tone veers from genuine laughs to serious drama nevertheless, as if he wasn't quite sure how much of a spoof he could get away with and fell back on his old tricks to bolster his over the top storyline.

It is campy, in that way the W.I.P. movies can be, and sets out the humour stall early on when Django clambers out of a river that he had dived into the previous night to escape from the cops. So not only are we to accept that he has been swimming for twelve hours, but he also has a fish down his trousers to boot. He makes it back to base, for he and his friends are self-styled revolutionaries, in about two days, an ordeal that has left him a raggedy wreck, but when girlfriend Blossom claps her eyes on him, she is furious and demanding to know where he's been. And how do they resolve their differences? By mud wrestling of course: think of all the wars we could have averted if only we'd introduced mud wrestling instead. But where does the prison come into all this?

Well, the cops picked up Terry on the charge of aiding the gang, and she is sent to an encampment which has as its centrepiece "The Big Bird Cage" of the title, no, not an aviary but a wooden sugar mill that the inmates have to work on all day. As usual in films shot in the Philippines, the American actors play the top dogs inside (and are apparently leading the revolution as well), although the guards and warden are Filipino - and gay, so as not to be swayed by any female wiles they may be subjected to. So you see how the parodic aspect comes into play; this is the film where the lady prisoners rape the male guard in one infamous scene, after all. Unfortunately, all this takes far too long to get to the point and the prison break is left to the very end, which means a lot of slackly plotted shenanigans that are authentically sleazy, but try the patience a little. And the reliable Haig is perhaps less than convincing posing as a homosexual. Music by William A. Castleman and William Loose.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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Jack Hill  (1933 - )

American writer and director, an expert at exploitation movies. He worked for Roger Corman (Hill was one of the directors of The Terror) before making his own films, beginning with Spider Baby. Come the seventies, he tried "women in prison" (The Big Doll House, The Big Bird Cage), blaxploitation (Coffy, Foxy Brown) and others (The Swinging Cheerleaders, Switchblade Sisters), but unfortunately his credits petered out in the eighties. He also "discovered" cult favourites Pam Grier and Sid Haig.

 
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