Caged Heat

1974, Movie, R, 83 mins

Review

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Gavin (formerly of Russ Meyer's VIXEN fame) is sent to a brutal women's prison run by sadistic, wheelchair-bound Steele. Unjustifiably accused of assisting a failed escape attempt, she is subjected to horrible shock treatments by the prison doctor. During a work assignment, she and Brown steal a car and escape. They learn that the doctor is planning to lobotomize a fellow inmate, so they decide to go back and rescue her. The pair goes to rob a bank but finds a gang of male robbers ahead of them. They rob the robbers and, after stealing a prison van, drive back through the gates. They stop the operation just in the nick of time, taking the doctor and Steele hostage. Guards fire on the van; the hostages are killed, but the women escape. Director Demme's auspicious debut transcends the sleazy dictates of its genre and stands along with Stephanie Rothman's TERMINAL ISLAND as a genuine feminist political statement in a milieu lifted straight out of the most misogynistic fantasies of men (CAGED HEAT is all the more notable for having been written and directed by a man). These women aren't passively suffering the indignities heaped on them by men; they take guns and rebel. Even the nudity, obligatory in New World's exploitation mill, is kept to a minimum and deglamorized whenever possible. Steele, a cult favorite for a number of Italian horror films by Mario Bava, does a wonderful turn as the crippled, demented warden. In one superb, spooky scene, she fantasizes while dancing with top hat and cane in a bathroom. The viola-and-harmonica score by ex-Velvet Underground member John Cale is excellent. An exciting film, and one that proves that even the most exploitative of films can make a relevant statement. leave a comment

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