review for Caged on AllMovie

Caged (1950)
by Craig Butler review

Caged is so beloved by camp aficionados that it's easy to forget that it's actually a hard-hitting and very well-done drama. Years of trashy women's prison films have made the mere mention of one seem laughable, a hoot. And to be sure, there are plenty of moments during Caged when one does find oneself chuckling, perhaps even giggling. Yet these moments are relatively few, and they somehow do not dampen the incredible impact of this noir-dripped "problem film." Much of the credit must go to Virginia Kellogg and Bernard Schoenfeld's screenplay, which is marvelously constructed and filled with memorable dialogue -- and with memorable characters to deliver it. John Cromwell also deserves kudos for his sterling direction, which navigates some very tricky paths without making any false moves. He also manages the all-important trick of conveying the maddening claustrophobia of life in the clink without oppressing the viewer to the point of distraction. He's aided in this by Carl Guthrie, whose camera finds the stark and painful beauty in this ruthless environment. But what most viewers will remember about Caged are the bravura performances. The entire cast is excellent, but Eleanor Parker's harrowing portrayal is unforgettable and the cornerstone upon which the film is built. She gets excellent support from Hope Emerson, Agnes Moorehead, and others, but the picture succeeds because of Parker.