Dennis suggests The Big Bird Cage (in Action). Some nice, seemingly normal young woman just rented this yesterday which could betoken a deep, psychological issue or two, an appreciation for energetic, competently-rendered sleaze, or, hopefully, both. Or perhaps she was just, as we all are from
time to time, drawn to the statuesque glory that is Pam Grier. Yup, The Big Bird Cage is a ‘WIP’ movie, the appropriately-acronym-ed ‘women in prison’ genre, with all the exploitation elements more firmly in place than the improbably-scanty prison uniforms. Genre stalwarts Grier, Anitra Ford, Carol Speed, and an official bevy of suitably stacked and sweaty co-prisoners are shipped off to a dingy, hellacious girls-only penal colony (this time in the Philippine jungle!) and have to endure the chains, sexual degradation, and jailhouse clichés of the genre (this time, as often the case, by genre baddie mainstay Sid Haig, among others). So why watch such exploitative trash? Well, in the first place…duh! And in the second place, the WIP genre (especially in the 70s), afforded some talented-but-marginalized actors and directors the opportunity to strut their stuff without anyone paying too much attention to their methods or hidden agendas (the producers of these things couldn’t care less about anything but the required quota of t&a and violence). I’ve always said that if you’re looking to be surprised in cinema, head for the fringes; there’re often unexpected rewards to be found there. In this one, you’ve got the gritty, surprisingly-inventive stylings of director Jack Hill (see also his Pit Stop, Spider Baby, Coffy, Foxy Brown, and the similar WIP The
Big Doll House, the latter three also starring Grier). And, of course, there’s Pam Grier. Pam Grier. I’m just gonna say that name one more time…Pam…Grier. Impossibly tall, talented, charismatic, and gorgeous Pam Grier. Those of you young’uns who watch ‘The L Word’ (and lifelong fan Quentin Tarantino’s excellent vehicle for/homage to her Jackie Brown) have gotten to know her, and that’s great, but please do yourself a big favor and go back and see her in her heyday when she was the baddest, ballsiest, and beautiful-est woman the movies had to offer.