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Paramount Studios presents
"Without light, this would really be a tomb."
DVD ReviewWalter Grauman may have earned his make mostly as a director of assorted television series throughout the 1960s and 1970s, but in 1963 he achieved something completely different with the feature film Lady in a Cage. As a none-too-subtle attack on the selfish indifference and uncaring reality of the modern world, Grauman is unflinching in the way he paints the malaise of selfishness and uninvolvement, echoed perfectly in a brilliant title sequence that builds feverishly to a dead dog in the middle of a busy street.
Grauman's treatment of the Luther Davis (Across 110th Street) script casts aging screen icon Olivia De Havilland as Mrs. Hilyard, a woman recovering from hip surgery who finds herself trapped between floors in her home's elevator on a sweltering holiday weekend. Her shouts and screams, as well as her security alarm, only draw the attention of a skeevy wino (Jeff Corey), who breaks in and summarily ignores Hilyard's pleas for help. Grauman and Davis quickly ratchet up the suspense by introducing a trio of violent, drug-addled troublemakers, led by a baby-faced James Caan, who also enter Hilyard's home, with murderous intent, as well the appearance of a self-proclaimed hustler played with boozy, greedy glee by Ann Sothern.
The progression of things leading up to the pivotal power outage, which is only in the Hilyard home, is a wonderfully staged Rube Goldberg-like series of small events that Grauman quickly builds upon as the story wastes little time in trapping De Havilland in the elevator. An almost forgotten subplot about her adult son (played by William Swan), who has left for the weekend, is introduced during the film's opening minutes, and left to dangle until a final reveal shatters our initial perceptions and pushes things into even more troubling areas.
There isn't a whole lot of beauty in the world that Grauman shows us in Lady in a Cage, and the message is as relevant today as it was in 1964, though this may have pre-dated the Me Generation a bit, it seems almost clairvoyant in its accuracy. The busy street that is just a few feet outside the door of the Hilyard house is littered with an unending line of cars full of myopic, self-absorbed individuals unaware of their surroundings. And with the ugliness Grauman and Davis show off here, I can't say I blame them.
Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B+
Image Transfer Review: Lady in a Cage has been issued in a smart new 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer from Paramount that really breathes new life into this over 40-year-old classic, and the level of detail on the black-and-white is just exceptional. There is hardly a blemish or speck to be found here, and with strong contrast levels the result is an image transfer that exceeded my expectations by leaps and bounds.
Image Transfer Grade: A-
Audio Transfer Review: Normally I'm not a big fan of new 5.1 tracks on films originally released in mono, but Paramount has managed to do it up right here. While the original mono track is perfectly fine, offering hiss-free dialogue, it is the new 5.1 mix that really dresses up the presentation by pushing the intentionally jarring accents of the Paul Glass score to the forefront even more so. Small effects, such as a train sound that rise out of the right front when Ann Sothern first enters the home of Olivia De Havilland is an example of the subtle way this new mix expands the experience without making it seem unnatural. There is not really any rear channel activity to speak of, but the depth across the front channels is dramatic enough to make the slightly juiced up 5.1 track a surprising preferred choice.
Audio Transfer Grade: A-
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Extras Review: Sadly, no extras to be found here, not even a trailer. The disc, however, is cut into 12 chapters, with optional English subtitles.
Extras Grade: D-
Final CommentsGrim, dark and disturbing, Lady in a Cage may not be Olivia De Havilland's finest performance, but as a hard bitch-slap at the face of humanity it is just as cold and stark today as it was in 1964. Grauman's visual approach was truly way ahead of its time, and the opening title sequence alone will always be one of my favorites.
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