Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Big Bird Cage (1972)

1972 - The Big Bird Cage (New World Pictures)

Director/Writer Jack Hill Producers Jane Schaffer, [uncredited] Cirio H. Santiago Executive Producer [uncredited] Roger Corman Music William A. Castleman, William Loose Cinematography “Philip”/Felipe Sacdalan Editors Jere Huggins, James Mitchell Art Direction Ben Otico Set Decoration Marshal Henry Makeup Artist Ray Solomon Production Supervisor Carl B. Raymond Second Unit Director Sid Haig Assistant Director Paul Maclang Sound Recordist Willie Arce Special Effects “Sam Hilary”/Santos Hilario Assistant Camera Narcissus Makalius Wardrobe Department “Felice Sacedo”/Felisa Salcedo

Cast Pam Grier (Blossom), Anitra Ford (Terry), Candice Roman (Carla), Teda Bracci (Bull Jones), Carol Speed (Mickie), Karen McKevic (Karen), Sid Haig (Django), Marissa Delgado (Rina), Vic Diaz (Rocco), “Andy”/Andres Centenera (Warden Zappa), Rizza Fabian (Lin Tsiang), Subas Herrero (Moreno), Wendy Green (Gertie)

Review by Andrew Leavold

Jack Hill returned to the Philippines in 1972 with an evolutionary step in WiP films, the more playful and, one can argue, more experimental The Big Bird Cage. This time Hill wrote the script and amplified the elements in The Big Doll House that worked best: black humour to balance the nastiness, crass and deliriously absurd one-liners delivered with stone-faced conviction, and the unmistakable chemistry between Pam Grier in Sid Haig, who shared some memorable exchanges between the bars in their previous effort. In The Big Bird Cage, Sid and Pam return as a Symbionese Army version of Ozzie and Harriet, or in this case Django and Blossom, tearing around the Third World countryside inflicting their swinging brand of revolution. They attempt to kidnap Terry (Anitra Ford), a bored American thrillseeker who’s been schtupping half of the government, but it goes horribly wrong, and instead Terry is sent down the river – literally - to keep her quiet.

In a remote jungle location she enters a womens’ compound ruled with an iron fist by the angry gnome Warden Zappa (Eddie Romero regular “Andy”/Andres Centenera), constantly on the point of exhaustion screaming “Punishment! Punishment!” His two homosexual guards (one played with tittering, fruity menace by Vic Diaz) escort Terry past the Big Bird Cage itself, an intricate bamboo sugar mill used more often than not as an instrument of punishment, its victims crushed between its giant cogs. As the “New Pig”, she expects to be released any moment, but instead finds herself strung up by her hair and left as a warning. Blossom, meanwhile, botches an assassination attempt and finds herself in the same hell-hole, and immediately tries to take over as Top Dog (“It’s MISS Nigger to you!”). Django decides to liberate Blossom and the other caged birds – for the Revoution, you understand – and minces past the love-struck guards in uniform. Before you can say “Than Franthithco” he’s unleashed a prison full of willing revolutionaries who, in the ultimate twisted expression of sexual liberation, rape Vic Diaz at knife point.

The Big Bird Cage sees the Filipino drive-in movie click into top gear: fast paced, lines dripping double entendres, the twin ‘fro action of Grier (finally receiving top billing) and fellow wiry jailmate Carol (Abby) Speed, and a raging inferno of a climax in which the film literally melts onscreen.

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