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Director: Walter Grauman Writer: Luther Davis Stars: Olivia de Havilland
, James Caan
, Jennifer Billingsley
Released during the period when aging actresses were being recruited for pulpy thrillers, this movie is probably the least horrific of the bunch, but it's pulpy AF. It features Olivia de Havilland, Ann Sothern, Scatman Crothers, and a very young James Caan doing his best Brando impression. The opening credits themselves are a paradigm of insane imagery and sounds of rotten America: a young African-American girl running her roller skates on a sleeping bum's legs; a radio announcer laments "Is there an anti-Satan missile?"; and a dead dog rots in the middle of a busy suburban street.
The movie is a mess. Massive plot points are left unresolved. The acting is ludicrously broad. And the characterizations are wildly over-the-top.
And yet, I love it.
It's pulpy lunacy that descends into bat-s.h.i.t crazy chaos. From the credits ripped off from Saul Bass
to the score ripped off from the Twilight Zone. This film, along with "What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?" transcended the genre. Olivia de Havilland plays a inappropriately doting mother of a grown man, and she becomes trapped in her private elevator when the power goes out on the holiday weekend. Her house is then invaded by a crazy wino with "repent" tattooed on his hands, a "plump" prostitute played by Ann Sothern, a one-eyed pawnbroker, and a trio of teenage junkies led by James Caan sporting pantyhose on his head.
They bathe, fight and kill each other while Olivia de Havilland quotes her own overwrought and melodramatic poetry to herself ("He who unleashes the terror, reaps the terror!").
Occasionally she pleads with them, ("I'll pay you to stop this animal orgy!").
And she even pities them, ("You're one of the bits of awful produced by the welfare state. You're what so much of my tax money goes to feed and care for.")
Olivia de Havilland is still stunning beautiful ; she was 47 during filming.
Lady in a Cage holds up as an entertaining, overwrought piece of shlock cinema. Little is known about its origins or production. Here's hoping a bluray release soon emerges with an updated transfer and some bonus content.