a Primal Root written review
Folks in the late 60’s and early 70’s must’ve loved to imagine somewhere out there in the Philippines there are prison/labor camps filled with gorgeous, violently horny American women wearing nothing but the tiniest of shorts and shirts that hang open so their ample, sweaty bosoms simply pour out of them as they sweat and work in the baking hot sun. How did I come to this conclusion, you ask? Because Corman and Co. were pumping these flicks out like chicken nuggets. One thing’s for sure, they tapped into some strange, dark fantasy of the time that proved profitable and a wonderful showcase for gonzo politics, dark satire, even darker attempts at comedy, and bizarre perversions of all kinds.
Among the grandest touchstones to come from these scantly clad and brutalized women in exotic prison movies was the steady appearances by the sassy, energetic, Ms. Pam Grier, who would go on to become a legend in her own right. In 1972’s “The Big Bird Cage” Pam Grier and Sig Haig play two revolutionaries, Blossom and Django (in possibly my favorite pairing of the two in their long history of working together), who end up dragging a gorgeous social climber by the name of Terry ( the lovely Anitra Ford of TV’s The Price is Right and the forgotten and highly underrated “Messiah of Evil” from 1972) into their crime wave as a hostage. It’s a short lived affair that end with Blossom and Django getting away and Terry going to a brutal concentration camp run by a sadistic warden and his army of burly, homosexual guards. Terry and the rest of the girls are put to work in the sweltering Philippine heat harvesting the sugar cane crop in the fields and within a giant wooden contraption of the prison warden’s own nefarious design known as…THE BIG BIRD CAGE. His device crushes, maims, and kills the perky, naked women just as efficiently as it brings sugar to market. Hell, most of the prisoners would rather commit suicide than work within…THE BIG BARD CAGE.
When the ladies aren’t working nearly completely nude they’re showering, making sexual advances towards their gay captors and each other or plotting to escape. These women are all perpetually horny and lusting for hard cock and much of the film’s lighter moments are derived from their attempts to seduce the guards who have no interest in them whatsoever. It;s a strange mishmash of politically incorrect humor (back when that was the acceptable norm. Ah, the good old days…) and brutal revolt, punishment and death. You’ll be laughing your ass off as a tall, skinny blonde covers herself head to toe in Crisco and runs after her nemesis and fellow inmate stark nekkid so no one can stop her, and the next second you’ll be staring in disbelief as a woman is gang raped by a horde of sweaty, butterfly knife toting Filipino men before a gay prison guard can make a bizarre joke about how he never gets that kind of action. This is the kind of filthy, off the wall tone shifty comedy Jack Hill (Spider Baby, Coffy, Switchblade Sisters) seems to really go for in his film, and frankly, I love him for it. It’s sick, it’s sleazy, and it sure as shit is like nothing else you will ever see in cinema. It’s so vulgar and eye wideningly weird that you cannot help but laugh even though what’s left of your heart which is not black tells you that you’re going to Hell for finding this humorous.
During a botched act of revolution where Blossom attempts to explode a gathering of politicians at some kind of public art Chautauqua with a grenade her lover and fellow revolutionary Django gave her. The grenade lets out a sizzling spark fart rather than exploding and Blossom is sent to the same sugar cane Hell hole Terry was imprisoned in. As you might expect, Blossom establishes herself quickly as the Queen B of the women’s concentration camp as she kicks ass, tears off clothes and generally shows everyone who’s boss. But soon the Evil Warden is suspicious that Blossom is one of the jungle’s revolutionaries and begins beating and torturing the head strong and drop dead gorgeous Blossom to try and get her to talk.
In the meantime, Django begins posing as a fellow homosexual in order to seduce the prison guards and land himself a job within the women’s penitentiary so that he can rescue Blossom and get his revolution going. It isn’t long before the entire prison camp is in flames, women are gunned down, guards are stabbed and hacked into pieces and much time is spent on a gang rape scene where about a dozen women tie down one of the gay guards, force him to get his cock hard and then ride it like the proverbial pony. It’s an odd, uncomfortable scene that’s trying to play itself for laughs. Again, the laughs are of the “what the fuck is this? Am I meant to laugh?” variety. It plays as retribution for this guard making lite of a gang rape that happened earlier, but it’s still pretty fucking uncomfortable listening to this fellow struggle and whimper as a group of sexy, sweaty, naked women suck on his wang and start straddling. I did laugh out loud when one women has to think fast and muffles the guard’s screams by placing her pussy squarly on his mouth before letting out a “WOAH!” of surprised ecstasy. Now THAT’S funny. Jack Hill is one of the last true rape joke artists. See what I meant when I told you this thing is politically incorrect and deeply inappropriate? This ain’t no Shawshank Redemption, Gang.
The women who survive the initial riot make their way into the jungle as they are tracked by vicious dogs, and guards packing all kinds of heat and out for blood. Many are killed, few are spared, and the only folks to survive are saved by gentlemen revolutionaries who send the survivors off into the sun set on a little schooner sure to capsize and kill them all before they ever make it to dry land. THE END.
“The Big Bird Cage” is one fantastically off the wall film filled with gratuitous nudity, torture, blood shed, and ruthlessly mean spirited, dark, offensive comedy. I say offensive because the sensitive rubes out there would certainly find this film to be vile and despicable with little to no socially redeeming qualities. To those rubes, I say sit and spin. These are the exactly reasons I enjoy “The Big Bird Cage” so much! It feels like a satire of the entire women in prison genre and has it’s sleazy little tongue planted firmly it’s slimy cheek. The Big Bird Cage is a wild mother fucking ride and one Trash Cinema Connoisseurs will lovingly embrace.
What lesson did I take away from “The Big Bird Cage?” Never keep a woman horny and sugar cane is an excellent cash crop.
I’m giving this slice of sleaze FOUR AND A HALF Dumpster Nuggets.