[box cover]

Caged!

Eleanor Parker plays 19-year-old Marie Allen, one of the "new fish" unloaded at an imposing women's prison after her conviction for armed robbery. Sweet-faced and fragile, Marie was in the car when her husband was killed during a gas station hold-up, and now she's pregnant, terrified and warehoused with a crowd of hardened lady convicts. The prison's warden (Agnes Moorehead) expresses some sympathy towards poor little Marie, but she still has to contend with the nasty, physically imposing matron Evelyn Harper (6-foot, 2-inch Hope Emerson) who runs her section via a combination of payoffs and brutality. It's a tasty, vicious piece of noir, and Parker's campy, melodramatic turn as the tortured innocent is matched by a carnival of deliciously over-the-top characters, including alpha-dog Kitty Stark (Betty Garde), delusional rich-girl Georgia Harrison (Betty Garde) and chipper, none-too-bright Emma Barber (Ellen "Grandma Walton" Corby). Directed by John Cromwell, Caged (1950) is considered one of the great women-in-prison flicks, and received three Oscar nominations (Parker for Best Actress, Emerson for Best Supporting Actress and for Best Screenplay) and certainly stands as a seminal example of the genre, offering tough talk ("I'm doing life -- one more like you would be just so much velvet"), allusions to lesbianism (Kitty to Marie: "If you stay in here too long, you donít think about guys at all. You just get out of the habit") and the inevitable power struggle between Kitty and another convict (Lee Patrick) who wants to rule the roost. Naturally, her time in the joint turns Marie from a frightened kitten into a hardened future criminal, and the film's end indicates that the effects of her incarceration have rehabilitated her not as a model citizen but as an embittered badass. It's a lot of catty fun, and the score by Max Steiner emphasizes the proceedings with just the right amount of schmaltz. Warner Home Video offers Caged! either solo or as part of its 3-disc "Camp Classics 2: Women in Peril" box set, with a fine, very clean full-screen transfer that preserves the original theatrical ratio and solid DD monaural sound. No extras. Keep case.
—Dawn Taylor



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