The Big Bird Cage (1972)

Genres - Crime  |   Sub-Genres - Prison Film  |   Run Time - 88 min.  |   Countries - Philippines , United States   |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Fred Beldin

Though not a sequel to Jack Hill's 1971 The Big Doll House, this entertaining women's prison epic plays all the same cards as the original drive-in hit and helped cement the clich├ęs that similar films went on repeating for years. Once again, our heroines are trapped in a bamboo prison in the Philippines, though this time banana republic politics propel the plot. Everything else will be familiar to fans of this fetishistic subgenre, including the sadistic warden, predatory lesbians, man-starved nymphos, a little mud wrestling, and a large, non-speaking group of Filipino girl extras filling out the prison population. The Big Bird Cage is more dramatically sound than most WIP films, and while it isn't quite as sadistic as some, there's no lack for feral action and its tastelessness is tongue-in-cheek ("You can't rape me, I like sex"). The cast is attractive, though fanciers of zaftig women might find these stylishly thin starlets to be downright emaciated. Barefoot and clad in denim short-shorts, they tie their work shirts suggestively below their breasts and pose with legs splayed and hips cocked to one side. Anitra Ford (a former model on The Price Is Right) plays the token "wrongfully accused" girl with a perpetual smirk on her face, even in the greatest danger. Hill favorites Sid Haig and Pam Grier return from The Big Doll House, presented here as swashbuckling revolutionaries, infiltrating the work camp in hopes of liberating the women for their lonely, frustrated soldiers. Perennial Filipino character star Vic Diaz and Subas Herrero ham it up as homosexual guards, swishing and preening when not doling out punishment. Hill made exploitation films with a professional sheen that his counterparts couldn't (or couldn't care to) achieve, adding knowing humor to the restrictive parameters of softcore cheerleader fantasies, juvenile delinquent dramas, and blaxploitation actioners, but always retaining the excitement. The Big Bird Cage is no exception, a solid genre effort that doesn't insult its audience's intelligence (too much).