The Big Bird Cage
- Pam Grier as Blossom
- Anitra Ford as Terry
- Sid Haig as Django
- Candice Roman as Carla
- Teda Bracci as Bull Jones
- Carol Speed as Mickie
A women in prison exploitation film, The Big Bird Cage is not what you’d call thought-provoking stuff. But neither is it trying to be; it is there to provide violence, nubile bodies and sheer shock value that is at times hard to resist.
Set in an unnamed Banana Republic, the film concerns sexy social climber Terry, who has slept with a lot of leading political figures and respectable gentleman. One night she makes the mistake of visiting a certain party in which revolutionaries Blossom and Django stage a robbery and briefly take her hostage. Django gets away but Terry is found and reprimanded for her alleged activities with the duo of rebels. Although she is innocent, no one listens and as punishment, she is thrown into a prison that also doubles as a labor camp. Here, the ladies are forced to work hard, with the most horrifying aspect being the large sugar mill at the centre of the camp that is dangerous and very deadly at times. Those who don’t conform to the harsh regime are tortured through various horrible means. Terry at first is standoffish with the other inmates, but gradually strikes up a certain friendship with a few, if only to keep the horrid conditions of the place from taking over. Elsewhere, Django’s men want to begin a revolution very soon and they want to have as many people on their side as they can get. Being mostly men, they want to have women by their sides and one of them comes up with a plan to liberate the camp. Blossom heads up this tactical plan by getting herself thrown into the prison and slowly getting the other ladies on side. Now it’s just a matter of the escape that stands in their way.
Jack Hill is a talented director who knows exactly what to supply the audience with. He doesn’t dress this film up as some big exercise in amazing storytelling, he has a simple plot with titillation and campy elements. Saying that, a bit more consistency may have benefited this film as some of it goes nowhere, but for what it is, I can say that it does the job it sets out to do with garish minutes a plenty. There is the usual content that you would expect with these films in cat fights, mud-slinging, brutality and nudity which is bound to keep audience members happy. It is unashamedly sleazy and scuzzy from the get go, when we glimpse the women of the prison under the grueling conditions, working in barely there clothing of shorts and rolled up shirts. You probably wouldn’t be allowed to get away with the half of the content in this film if you were to do it today, but one needs to remember that The Big Bird Cage was made for the drive-in crowd of the 70’s. No one then or now is really expecting a huge masterpiece of artistic and intellectual film making, they want a quick film of outrageous and shocking content. The revolt against the system and breakout from the bamboo prison is the biggest high point of The Big Bird Cage. Exciting, incredible and explosive, it gives the audience what they want in spades and is genuinely a well shot sequence of erupting violence as the ladies take revenge on their captors with ferocity and savagery. I will say that The Big Bird Cage, despite its short running time, can get a bit turgid and slow in parts(with a kick needed to start it up again), but it is made up for with the sheer overheated nature of the piece that overwhelms you with just how far it goes on the implausible scale and dubious it can get. My advice is to switch your brain off and leave analytical thinking far behind when it comes to this film as deep rumination will get you nowhere.
Character development is pretty much zilch in The Big Bird Cage, though some of the cast do better than you would expect from acting in a chicks in chains flick. Pam Grier is a bad ass from the beginning of the film; sexy, aggressive and handy in a fight, she is a tough cookie who can scrap her way out of just about anything. Pam Grier is great here with abrasive attitude and huge sex appeal, yet when is she never not good? Anitra Ford is a little wooden and bland as the girl chucked into the prison, though her acting gets better as the film progresses and she settles in to the part instead of just posing every five minutes. B-Movie staple Sid Haig is obviously having a ball playing the hot-blooded bandit Django, with sleaze and panache forming a most peculiar but watchable presence. Candice Roman, Teda Bracci and Carol Speed flesh out the other captives the best they can, though each doesn’t linger as long in the memory as Pam Grier.
It’s a questionable movie of tastelessness and sleaziness, but in the tradition of B-Movies, The Big Bird Cage hits the spot on that level and has a certain trashy and scuzzy appeal to it. And anything with Pam Grier in is worth watching, right?