Monday, February 1, 2010

Big Bird Cage (1972, Jack Hill)

For the longest time I would always get the titles to The Big Bird Cage and The Big Doll House mixed up. The films themselves are pretty similar (even some of the actors are the same) plus the fact they have the same director and producer. I saw The Big Bird Cage shortly after I discovered Jack Hill and I was a little disappointed by it. I was actually surprised by it in some ways too (I'll elaborate more as we go on). Coffy and Switchblade Sisters had blown me away and it wasn't until this film that I started to lose interest in Hill's films (though only temporarily). It would be over a year later that I would watch Swinging Cheerleaders and realize that I had written Mr. Hill off far too soon. Anyway, I decided to give it another chance.

The Big Bird Cage takes place in (you guessed it) a women's prison, this time it's actually more of an outdoor jungle prison. The women are made to work in the fields or in a huge structure called The Big Bird Cage, which is used to make sugar. Occasionally "accidents" happen on the Big Bird Cage so it is usually the lazy or the trouble making girls that are made to work in it. Terry (The Price is Right's Anitra Ford) is mistakenly arrested for a robbery and, despite her innocence, is sent to the women's prison, mainly because it is known that she has slept with many political leaders. Soon, a woman named Blossom (Pam Grier) and her boyfriend Django (Sid Haig), who were the real robbers that got Terry in trouble, infiltrate the prison (as a prisoner and gay guard, respectively) to plan a break out for the women.

The Big Bird Cage unfortunately does not live up to the standards of it's previous film The Big Doll House. The story is decent and the set designs are great (Hill's father actually built the Big Bird Cage). The characters are interesting but not as fun as in Big Doll House. The film is very dated and politically incorrect, which adds some comedy to the story (in the form of two gay guards and their attempts to win the affection of Django). Grier and Haig steal the show as usual, but Anitra Ford is also nice to watch. The most surprising thing about the film is its lack of seriousness. When I first read about this film (and Hill's films in general), I thought they would be more serious films, or at least take themselves seriously. This film seemed a little too tongue in cheek for it's own good. I'd recommend a watch but there are better choices out there.

RATING: 5/10

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