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Friday, April 8, 2016

Video Beaverhausen: Caged

1950's Caged is always worth re-watching. It's an absolutely riveting drama and serious critique of the penal system in America.

Caged is the prototype for women's prison films that later devolved into sexual exploitation films. Caged is the real deal, however.

Eleanor Parker portrays Marie Allen, an innocent girl who goes into prison at age 19 and comes out, after her experiences there, a hardened criminal. She was Oscar nominated fro her role, deservedly.  She won that award, however, at the Venice Film Festival.

Hope Emerson upstages everyone as the cruel matron, Evelyn Harper. Her portrayal has been oft imitated and even parodied, most conspicuously by Divine in 1970s' hit satire, Women Behind Bars.

Hope's nemesis is Agnes Moorehead as the prison warden who seeks to reforms a sexist and unjust system and protect her ladies. Betty Garde and Lee Patrick in Sapphic roles also shine. And I think Jan Sterling is just adorable as Smoochie. and Jane Darwell.

The screenplay, by a woman, Virginia Kellogg, who actually spent time in jail to research this film has a very evolved feminist point of view.

Stylishly directed by John Cromwell with great cinematic flair. The dialogue sizzles. It begins with the line, "Pile out you tramps! It's the end of the line!" and includes gems like "What shall we do with her file?"/"Keep it active. She'll be back!" and "After a while, you don't think about men. You don't think about men at all."

I used to watch this on tv when it would be on Million Dollar Movie in constant replay on our local channel 9. The Allied Artists release at one point lost its licensing but was revived in time for the LGBT Film Festival in NYC back in the 1990s.

A must see. Available on dvd.

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