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February 8, 2012

Movie Review: The Big Bird Cage (1972)

Directed by Jack Hill
Starring Pam Grier, Anitra Ford and Sid Haig

The Big Bird Cage was the third “Women in Prison” movie produced by B-movie king Roger Corman in a short two year span during the early 70's, along with The Big Doll House and Women in Cages. Sensing the genre was becoming a bit predictable, Corman hired director Jack Hill to inject a fresh approach to this one, and by adding a heavy dose of humor and parody what he came up with is perhaps one of the best exploitation films of its time.

Buy The Big Bird Cage on DVD

The Big Bird Cage also marked the screen debut of Anitra Ford, best known as one of Bob Barker's original beauties on The Price is Right. She plays Terry, an American tourist visiting a Central American banana republic where her indiscreet flirtations with the prime minister get her in trouble with the governing party. She's sent to a bamboo shack prison for women staffed exclusively by gay guards and centered around a towering, archaic-looking sugar cane mill, the `big bird cage' of the title.

Prisoners who lose their wits are permanently confined in a cage for `crazies' while those who attempt to escape are tracked down by attack dogs. Regardless, Terry makes a run for it and nearly gets gang raped in the process. When the effeminate head guard Rocco (played to the 9's by the hilarious Vic Diaz) catches up to her as she's being molested by half a dozen local men, he sadly states, `Why doesn't that ever happen to me?' As punishment for her attempted escape, Terry's left hanging from a rope tied to her ponytail. Along with the theme of frustrated, abused and sexually starved inmates, the film also focuses on a group of would-be revolutionaries led by Blossom (Pan Grier) and Django (Sid Haig, in probably his most awesome role before going on to much later fame as Captain Spaulding in the Rob Zombie flicks House of a 1000 Corpses & The Devils Rejects). They decide the best way to start a revolution is to free a prison full of beautiful women (which makes total sense to me) with Grier going undercover as an inmate and Haig gaining a job as a prison guard by pretending to be a flamboyant homosexual in need of employment, (keep in mind, you have to be gay to work at this particular prison). Grier is in perfect form as the rough and tumble sex-pot and Haig basically steals the show, completely going over the top as the way-too-gay prison guard.

So along with the staples of the genre, excessive nudity, man on woman violence, woman on woman violence, excessive nudity and lots of flopping breasts, we are treated to a B-movie that is actually very funny and surprisingly well acted by most involved. The eye-candy is in abundance as well, being filmed in The Philippines it seems they had access to boat-loads of beautiful native girls more then willing to bare it all for our benefit. Sure, its got some corny moments that dont quite work but overall it is a cut above the rest and a legitimate comedy that could hold its own against any mainstream comedy of its time. For Roger Corman fans this is a Must See, and a good time for anyone who doesnt take their movie-viewing experience too seriously.

7 sexually frustrated, big-breasted and topless prison inmates out of 10

~ Reviewed by KennyB

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