Women in Cages (1971)

Made directly after The Big Doll House, this time Pam Grier gets to play a sadistic lesbian prison matron who indulges in torturing those who cross her and forcing others to have sex with her during the night. There’s actually a surprising amount of depth to Grier’s character for a movie of this caliber, thanks to a very on the nose monologue about how she was raped in Harlem and that’s why she will not let anyone push her around anymore. To further give credit where credit is due, they do actually try and give the movie a more rounded, complex plot than what you usually expect from a sexploitation flick. That’s why we have an extended opening scene explaining just why Jeffries goes to jail,  and there’s even a very goofy (well, in the sense that her plans always get foiled at the last minute, which is in itself, a bit comedic) subplot about one of her cell mates trying to assassinate Jeffries multiple times with poison sandwiches, snakes and rolling a heavy barrel over her.

Though they set their sets high on the script, the problem is that the writing is absolutely terrible, and the plot points are established so badly that it all just ends up becoming a big, convoluted mess. This becomes abundantly clear when the women have successfully escaped from the prison at the 70 minute mark. That normally would make a very natural ending point to the story, but instead this gem of exploitation cinema runs for an additional extra ten minutes, half of which are spent on Stokes betraying the other girls by trying to sell them off as sex-slave for cash and a quick fix for her drug habit, and how that plan goes belly up when she herself gets betrayed by the people she’s selling the girls to, and is also forced to become a prostitute. This would again make a natural, if bleak, end for the story. But no, apparently we still have more plot to get through! This is where it becomes particularly hilarious, as we’ve now got exactly five minutes left of on the clock, and the movie inexplicably decides that it needs to go on fast-forward mode to rush a big splash action packed ending. This is accomplished by a very abrupt cut to the police who blatantly explain the final plot point to the audience (this is heavily paraphrased, mind you) by stating “so, if we rescue the Jeffries girl from the boat she’s been held at, we can put the bad guys in jail?” to which another cop replies something like “yes, I guess so. But we must go undercover”  and then we immediately cut to the boat where the same cops are now executing a very quick undercover infiltration and they locate Jeffries in maybe fifteen seconds after stepping inside the boat. The remainder of the movie is then turned into a hectic escape sequence featuring fist fights and a  comically uneventful shoot out. And let me remind you that all of this, from the cops providing the plot exposition to escaping from the boat, happens in that mere five minutes time frame. I could be wrong, but I don’t think anyone important from the bad guys even dies. Who thought this whole sequence was even necessary?

The best part of the ending is that you don’t get any type of proper conclusion to the story. The movie just ends abruptly, without even giving lip service to confirm that the bad guys are indeed now screwed with Jeffries free. Instead, all you get is the cops and Jeffries driving away on a small boat while one of the bad guys just shrugs and tells everyone to get back to work, and then we’re shown Stokes being forced to sleep with a man, and then end credits pop to the screen. I mean, seriously? That’s it? I know they did only explain it five earlier how Jeffries would help them put the bad guys in jail, but really, you couldn’t even have one line of dialog where the cop on the speed boat says to her something along the lines of “with your help, their days are now numbered, they’re going to jail” to close the movie with? It’s just baffling.

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