THE WOMEN IN CAGES COLLECTION Blu-ray Review

Charlie Hobbs, Contributing Writer
No one knew exploitation cinema like Jack Hill. His resume is like a tour through sleazy '70s film history, and his collaborators like a who's who of the toughest, meanest, and sexiest stars of the era.  Shout! Factory's Women in Cages Blu-ray Collection is a magnificent monument to that legacy featuring Hill's Big Doll House and The Big Bird Cage as well as Gerry De Leon's Women in Cages to round it all out. These three films may not have been the first Women in Prison films, far from it, but they brought the goods like no other films before them.  If you wanted buxom broads with bad attitudes, you've got 'em in spades in this collection.  Mud wrestling, shower scenes, sexual torture, and more, the Women in Cages Collection delivers on the things that made the '70s a heyday for exploitation filmmakers and fans.  Shout! Factory's Blu-ray discs are absolutely gorgeous and capture the look and feel of these films wonderfully, as well as providing some very enlightening extras that are well worth a purchase!
Pam Grier (Jackie Brown) joins a group of sexy, young female prisoners in their struggle against a sadistic warden in Big Doll House. This shockingly real film is perhaps one of the most influential of all women-in-prison films! Also starring Judy Brown, Roberta Collins (Death Race 2000) and Sid Haig (House Of 1,000 Corpses). Directed by Jack Hill (Spider Baby, Foxy Brown).

Innocent Carol Jeffries (Jennifer Gan, Naked Angels) is framed by her drug-dealing boyfriend and ends up in a tough prison in the Philippines jungle in Women In Cages. She must face off against the sadistic warden, Alabama (Pam Grier), who takes great pleasure in alternately seducing and torturing her prisoners. Also starring Judy Brown and Roberta Collins. Directed by Gerry De Leon (Mad Doctor Of Blood Island).

Inside the hellish women's prison called The Big Bird Cage, inmates like Terry (Anitra Ford, The Price Is Right) struggles to survive. They get their chance to escape when scheming revolutionary Blossom (Pam Grier) engineers a prison break . . . from the outside in. Also starring Carol Speed (Abby). Directed by Jack Hill.
There are enough similarities between these films that to review them all separately would be somewhat redundant.  Suffice it to say that all of them are a ton of fun.  Hill's entries are the two most successful of the trio, with Big Doll House standing as a particular favorite due to the first lead role for the absolutely stunning Pam Grier. Grier features in all three films, and she is/was a knockout of the highest caliber.  That is perhaps the films' greatest weakness, everyone is in Pam's shadow, but hey, I can think of worse places to be.

The Disc:

Shout! Factory have done marvelous things with their Corman Cult Classics on Blu-ray, and Women in Cages is no exception.  The HD transfers are far from spotless, but they retain a healthy, organic sheen of film grain that reveals details and enlivens colors throughout the features.  It improves vastly upon the capabilities of DVD and is most definitely worth the upgrade. Young Pam Grier in high definition? That's a no-brainer.

As is also customary for Shout! Factory, they've included some very solid extras, including a 50 minute documentary titled From Manila With Love. This is the gem of the extras.  The documentary traces the genesis and production of Jack Hill's two features, Big Doll House and The Big Bird Cage.  Hill is featured among the interviewees along with all of the other surviving main cast with the notable exception of Ms. Grier, who declined to take part for some reason.  Even without her participation, the documentary is a riot and a lot of fun to watch.  All of the women involved have very fond memories of the shoots and Hill has a great recollection and sense of humor about the circumstances under which he was expected to work.  He certainly made the best of it, and we are the beneficiaries.  Also included are audio commentaries from Jack Hill on his two features, as well as trailers for all three films.  Women In Cages is presented on two Blu-ray discs, with Big Doll House and Women in Cages on disc one and The Big Bird Cage and From Manila with Love on the second. 

Overall, this is a spectacular package from Shout! Factory, who continue to impress when they are given the latitude to produce Blu-ray discs.  Let's hope the sales of this disc and Battle Beyond the Stars encourage Vivendi to allow them more HD presentations!

Women In Cages is presented on Region A locked Blu-ray.


Special Features:
- Audio Commentary with director Jack Hill for Big Doll House and The Big Bird Cage
- From Manila With Love - New documentary on the making of Big Doll House and The Big Bird Cage featuring interviews with director Jack Hill, screenwriter James Gordon White, actors Sid Haig, Judy Brown, Anitra Ford, Roberta Collins, Candice Roman, and Teda Bracci, and producers Roger Corman and Jane Schaffer
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