Tuesday, 25 January 2022

Caged Women (1991)

The women-in-prison genre took off in a big way in Europe with the success of Jess Franco’s 99 Women in 1969, and then in the 80s had a late flowering in the United States with movies like Chained Heat. By the end of the 80s it had largely run its course so Leandro Lucchetti’s 1991 entry Caged Women (Caged - Le prede umane) reprsents pretty much the end of the line for the genre. Watching his movie you can see why the genre faded - it had all been done before.

This is an Italian film which apparently encountered lots of censorship problems.

Caged Women starts with the arrival of American tourist Janet Cooper (Pilar Orive) in an unnamed South American country. She’s gone to an isolated town which is generally regarded even by the inhabitants of the country as a seriously undesirable place to visit. Janet has decided to go there on her own because she thinks she can look after herself.

This movie makes its exploitation credentials clear from the start. Within the first few minutes we get frontal nudity, a loving close-up of Pilar Orive’s bottom, an attempted rape and some simulated sex. This is going to be a very sleazy movie.

Janet got rescued from the attempted rape by handsome American helicopter mechanic Frank Nolan (Christrian Lorenz). He admits that the only reason he saved her because he was intending to give her the same treatment herself. Janet decides he’s her kind of man and so she has sex with him.

What we don’t find out is what this crazy broad thought she was doing going to such a dangerous place on her own. She seems to be convinced that if she gets into difficulties she can’t possibly get into real trouble because all she has to do is ask to see a lawyer or the US consul. She quickly finds out that she’s dealing with people who don’t worry about such legal niceties.

Within a day she’s been thrown into an island prison hellhole, without a trial, by a corrupt cop.

Then we get the standard women-in-prison stuff - the medical examination, the shower scene, Gerda the sadistic lesbian prison warder. From another American prisoner, Luoise (Isabel Libossart), she learns what’s going on. The prisoners (all young and female) are for sale to the highest bidder. Rich foreigners are flown in by helicopter to entertain themselves with the girls. It’s your basic white slavery operation.

Janet manages to seriously annoy the commandant, Captain Juan, so she and Louise are thrown into the cage to bake in the scorching sun for a while. Meanwhile Captain Juan is going to organise a hunt. Louise explains to Janet that these hunting parties happen from time to time, with girl prisoners as the prey.

Meanwhile Frank Nolan is missing his new bed partner, but he has no idea what has happened to her.

The acting is basic. Pilar Orive is obviously doing her best and she manages to give Janet a certain amount of spirit (even if we’re appalled by her poor judgment). Having a sadistic lesbian prison warder who is also young and pretty is always a nice touch and Elena Wiedermann plays the part with a certain amount of style - she doesn’t lose her temper which makes Gerda seem a lot more dangerous.

All the actresses playing the prisoners are nude for most of the movie. Which is just as well since this movie depends quite a bit on the naked female flesh factor.

It does have one genuinely startling scene. Janet and Louise are locked in what’s called the cage, where they’re exposed to the blistering sun and they have no water. Death by dehydration seems a likely fate. Then Louise gets a brilliant idea. They do have a source of moisture - each other. They can survive by licking the sweat off each other’s bodies, which they proceed to do. The girls seem to find this oddly enjoyable. Of course to get the necessary moisture it’s necessary to lick the whole of each other’s bodies. This is the sort of scene that warms the hearts of women-in-prison movie fans.

There’s also a decent double cat-fight scene in a river. It’s a fight for survival, staged for the entertainment of the prison guards.

There’s also sex in a helicopter, if you like that sort of thing.

The girl hunt at the end is staged quite well.

The DVD release from an outfit optimistically named The Classic Theater offers a rather dubious fullframe transfer. Sound quality is OK but with some hisses and scratches. Full Moon have released this one on DVD as well.

This is an incredibly sweaty grimy scuzzy movie. What it lacks is any real consistent inspiration. Jess Franco’s 70s women-in-prison movies were even sleazier but they always had touches of Franco craziness and visual experimentation and they were capable of springing genuine surprises on the viewer. Caged Women is mostly just a paint-by-numbers effort but with an occasional flash of inspiration. If you’re a women-in-prison completist it’s worth seeing. It certainly has the required sleaze ingredients. Recommended.

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