Derek Winnert


This article was written on 29 Apr 2017, and is filled under Uncategorized.

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Caged Heat *** (1974, Juanita Brown, Erica Gavin, Roberta Collins, Barbara Steele) – Classic Movie Review 5361

Writer-director Jonathan Demme makes his impressive and inventive film début in 1974 with this women-in-prison exploitation movie, made for producer Roger Corman. A sensationalist tale of rape, riot and revenge, it is the start of a brilliant, Oscar-winning career that included The Silence of the Lambs and Philadelphia, and ended with Demme’s death on 26 April 2017, aged 73.

It is the usual plot about Jacqueline Wilson (Erica Gavin), an innocent young woman caught in a drug bust and sent to jail where she is corrupted within these walls. The evil treatment she meets there in the jail includes electroshock therapy, leading to an equally formula breakout (with a fellow con, played by Juanita Brown) and a less familiar (and less likely) break-back-in to help other inmates escape.

But Demme directs with a pounding, twinkly energy, and the breakout is splendidly rampaging. Horror icon Barbara Steele is a knockout as Superintendent McQueen, the nasty, vindictive warden in a wheelchair, with Warren Miller also notable as the sadistic Dr Randolph, who is conducting the illegal electroshock experiments and raping drugged prisoners.

It is sharply shot by cinematographer Tak Fujimoto, who became Demme’s permanent collaborator throughout his career, and it is all moved along briskly with percussive music from John Cale.

Also in the cast are Roberta Collins, Ella Reid, Rainbeaux Smith, Lynda Gold [Crystin Sinclaire], Toby Carr Rafelson, Ann Stockdale, Irene Stokes and Mickey Fox.

It is also known as Renegade Girls.

© Derek Winnert 2016 Classic Movie Review 5361

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