Caged Heat ! - Caged Heat !( Blu Ray) [101 Films - 2022]
From the early 1970’s Caged Heat! is a Roger Corman-produced Women In Prison film. It’s based in a dusty & desert set prison, with a good enough selection of memorable characters, some nice tense & gritty action, subtle touches of humour, and a light icing of flesh and sleaze. Here from 101 Films is a recent Blu-Ray release of the film- with a 2k scan, and a good selection of extras.
Released in 1974, Cage Heat! (aka Renegade Girls, Caged Females) was written and directed by Long Island-born Jonathan Demme. He has seventy-three credits to his name- with the most known of these being The Silence of The Lambs (1991) and Philadelphia (1993). Caged Heat! Is a good example of well-shot, evenly paced, and largely well-acted ’70s grindhouse cinema- and while the sleaze is not quite as high, or nasty as some examples of the WIP film- but it’s an enjoyable romp of a film.
The whole thing kicks off with a gone wrong robbery/ drug deal turned sour- with brunette Jacqueline Wilson (Erica Gavin) getting arrested and sent to an isolated women’s prison in dusty and hot California countryside. Here she quickly hooks up with punchy and cheeky joke-telling blond Belle (Roberta Collins), and tough-talking African American Pandora (Ella Reid). In charge of the prison bespeckled, bookish, quietly unhinged, and wheelchair-bound Supt. McQueen( Barbara Steel).
As the film unfolds, we get the typical WIP tropes- so there is in-cell banter, bitch fights, inmates are thrown into (naked!) isolation, shower scenes, electroshock treatment, and escape plans. But we do get some neat/ fairly distinctive elements- a series of sleazed to darkly surreal dream sequences, a tense/ pulse bounding race through the air vents, and a few other light twists/ tweaks on the WIP more formal.
The acting is largely fairly good for grindhouse fare- Gavin makes for a good lead, with good supporting roles from Collins and Reid. Also, worth mentioning are Steel, who is a great fit as the wheelchair-bound warden. We have Warren Miller as moustached, pipe sucking, latter taking dirty pics of inmates Dr Randolph. And tough Hispanic prisoner Maggie (Juanita Brown). The film is scored by former Velvet Underground member John Cale- and it’s a good blend of taut slide 'n' harmonica, sawing string work, and dusty ‘n’ rootsy guitar music. All in all, I found Caged Heat! an entertaining slice of 70’s US grindhouse.
Moving onto this Blu Ray- and as far as I can gather the scan/ extras are transferred from the Shout Factory release of the film. The 2k scan looks well defined and balanced in its colours- with a good mix of shadow and light. On the extras front, we have a commentary track from writer/director Jonathan Demme, director of photography Tak Fujimoto and actress Erica Gavin. This is expected a fairly chatty/ busy track- though largely we get no piles up of talking, and all in all, it’s a rewarding track. They start by discussing the film's funding, pointing out interesting bit-part actors, and commenting on the motel location in the film. Moving on they talk about the film's four-week shoot, and how they tried to follow the Roger Corman WIP template, but with a few distinctive twists. They talk about how the dream sequences were shot, and mention the whole thing was edited by a female auteur. They talk about filming in the jail, and how cold it was. They mention the film's $180,000 budget- with Gavin discussing how it varied from her previous film Russ Meyers Vixen. They talk about filming four to five scenes per day, with most of the time only having one to two takes. Later on, they discuss having to be careful with their use of squibs, due to the budget. Point out crew members appearing as extras. Chat about the John Cale score- which was recorded in just three hours, they also mention the players other than Cale on the score. And much more.
Otherwise, on the disc we get a just-under onscreen interview with Mr Corman, and respected US film critic Leonard Maltin- and this is worth a play, as they move from talking about the film poster/ tag line, moving on to discuss the film itself and Jonathan Demme as a filmmaker. Lastly, we have a trailer, and image gallery.
Caged Heat! is a more openly entertaining, and less sleazed/ nasty take on the WIP form- so really, it’s down to what you're looking for in the genre. All in all, this 101 Film release is certainly worth picking up- with a good 2k scan, and a small but worthy selection of extras. To buy direct from 101 Films drop in here.