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Warner Home Video presents
Cult Camp Classics 2: Women in Peril (Caged, The Big Cube, Trog) (1949-69)

"Pile out you tramps, it's the end of the line."
- unnamed cop in Caged

Review By: Jeff Wilson  
Published: June 25, 2007

Stars: Hope Emerson, Eleanor Parker, Agnes Moorehead, George Chakiris, Lana Turner, Joan Crawford, Michael Gough
Director: John Cromwell, Tito Davison, Freddie Francis

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for violence, adult themes, nudity, sexual situations, gore
Run Time: 03h:05m:35s
Release Date: June 26, 2007
UPC: 085391145226
Genre: cult


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
C+ C+B+B+ D

DVD Review

Warners provides some more goodies from their catalog in their new series of "Cult Camp Classics," giving film lovers another reason to bow down and worship. The first film in this "Women in Peril" box set is easily the best of the three. The 1950 melodrama Caged is a wickedly good time, a women in prison film that probably provided the template for all the later followers. Eleanor Powell is marvelous as Marie Allen, a 19-year-old sentenced to 15 years in the slammer for being dumb enough to accompany her husband during a stickup. She's naive and scared, and the film spends much of its first half detailing her initiation into prison life amidst the various other inmates. Agnes Moorehead, always classy, is a perfect choice for the prison superintendent who struggles against politics and chauvinism to improve the conditions within the prison. On the other side is Hope Emerson as Evelyn Harper, the sadistic matron more corrupt than many of her charges. The film is informed by screenwriter Virginia Kellogg's undercover research within a women's prison, which gives the dialogue a distinct tang. My favorite line comes when Harper tries to threaten an elderly con (Gertrude Hoffman), who bites back "Lay a hand on me and I'll put your lights out. I'm in for life. One more like you is just so much velvet." I mean, I'm still cackling just reading that. Great stuff. Marie's eventual loss of innocence after her (entirely expected) betrayal by the system comes off a bit too easily, but the ending is a crushing admission of defeat, a submission to survival in a cruel world. If you only see one movie in this set, absolutely make it this one.

Our second "classic" is The Big Cube, one of those '60s drug movies apparently made by people who had never actually used drugs, but only read about them in hysterical magazine articles. Lana Turner slums her way through the film as a purportedly great actress who gets into trouble when her naive stepdaughter (Karin Mossberg) and her sleazy boyfriend/husband Johnny (George Chakiris) use acid in a demented plot to get her committed to an asylum in order to get their hands on the family money. It's by far the most camp and screwy of the three films, and begs to be viewed with a crowd. That said, it's a clunky film, with awkward acting and framing at times, and Turner is often shot in soft focus, presumably to obscure her aging. This being a movie, the hippies are all really clean and well-groomed, and they all have some kind of scam going on. It's a trip, maaaan, and a bad one. But a very funny one as well. The above doesn't even get into the marriage and attempts to save Lana from this evil plan. It's hysterical in the best way. It says something about what square Hollywood types thought the head scene was like, at any rate.

Warner Bros has been given so many kudos for their treatment of their catalog titles, it will likely fall on deaf ears to trumpet their work yet again. I do give them a big sloppy kiss for their release of this package of Cult Camp Classics, subtitled "Women in Peril," because it has allowed me to savor a film I recall fondly from my youth. I don't recall the exact year (probably around 1978), but I would watch the noon movie on KPLR 11 in St Louis all summer, and they must have played Freddie Francis'Trog multiple times. It's a movie that has stayed with me over the years (how's that for a foundational film experience?) for whatever reason, and I hadn't seen it since, apparently being rather hard to get hold of. That's all changed now, and while part of me wants to watch it on a dodgy old TV in full screen, the film is done full justice (such as it is) with a lovely anamorphic print.

The film stands as the final work of Joan Crawford, an actress I've never especially cared for, and her performance here comes off a bit flat. She's supposed to be playing an anthropologist fiercely dedicated to her work, but more often seems tired. The film could have done with some real scenery-chewing. Michael Gough provides the extreme, playing a local resident who is angrily opposed to the very presence of Crawford and her work. He drips contempt in every line. To point out the ridiculous qualities of the script would be too easy, but suffice to say it's really stupid. A troglodyte, argued by Dr. Brockton (Crawford) to be the missing link between man and ape, is found in a cave in rural England (why England? Why not?). Dubbed Trog, he is captured and studied by Brockton, who sees a creature capable of learning. Gough's Sam Murdock, the quintessential "concerned citizen," hates everything about it and Brockton, and sets the film's final bloody sequence in motion with a few moments of willful stupidity.

Simply put, this is a pretty terrible movie. The Trog looks silly (envision a stocky short guy wearing an ape face, with a shaggy shoulder wrap, loin cloth, and fur booties), and the story is fairly boring until Trog goes on his killing spree. The script tries to paint both sides as wrong, the scientist Brockton suffering perhaps from a little too much hubris, and the philistine Murdock a cynical creep who argues whatever rationale seems likely to work, be it economic, safety, religion, whatever. It's just dumb all around. Still, it was awesome when I was eight, so what the heck? If you enjoy bad movie nights, give this one a whirl. You likely won't be disappointed.



Rating for Style: C+
Rating for Substance: C+

 

Image Transfer

 OneTwo
Aspect Ratio1.66:1 - Widescreen1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyesyes
Anamorphicyesyes


Image Transfer Review: Each film is presented in its proper ratio, and the two widescreen films are anamorphically enhanced. Each also looks quite good, with only minor speckling here and there.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglishno


Audio Transfer Review: Each film has its original soundtrack and nothing else; that means mono for all three films, and each does the job, though Caged had at least one moment where shrill music gets somewhat distorted.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+

 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 78 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French with remote access
3 Original Trailer(s)
Packaging: Box Set
Picture Disc
3 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: Each film gets a trailer and nothing else.

Extras Grade: D

 

Final Comments

"Cult Camp Classics" describes all three films, if you apply one of the terms to each film. Trog is the cult film, The Big Cube is pure camp, and Caged is the classic. The dearth of bonus material is a little disappointing, but the films are worth it as a package.

 


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