Wednesday, April 13, 2016

LADY IN A CAGE (1964)

Now here's an interesting (and gritty) little gem.  Released in 1964, at the height of the Psycho-biddy subgenre's popularity, LADY IN A CAGE tells the story of a controlling middle-aged woman (Olivia De Havilland) who lives in a nice home that used to be in a upscale neighborhood but isn't so upscale anymore.  One morning she's riding up the small elevator that she had installed to help her recovery from a broken hip and the power goes out.  This is decades before cell phones so her only options are to break out and drop (her hip prevents her from doing this) or activating the emergency alarm that rings a bell outside the house.  Sounds...useless.  She rings the bell, but the only person who hears it is a drunken wino (Jeff Corey) who promptly breaks in and starts ransacking the place.  He does such a sloppy job of it that he attracts the attention of a trio of psychopaths (lead by a young James Caan) and they soon join in on the fun.  Things quickly get violent.

LADY IN A CAGE is a fascinating film that I would love to know more about.  The opening credits seem reminiscent of Saul Bass' title design sequence in PSYCHO, the story holds a very pessimistic view of a rapidly changing society, foreshadowing with the dead dog, great wigged out performances by the entire cast, but I think the thing that intrigued me the most was the early hippie, pre-Charles Manson portrayal of the three main psychopaths.  I loved how Caan wore high water jeans with darken back pockets, Jesus sandals and a tied-up shirt.  It's a very California beatnik look (...at least from what I've learned in movies).  And I might be imagining things, but, at moments, Rafael Campos' unhinged performance looks a lot like Edwin Neal's brilliant performance in THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE 10 years later...the deranged look in his eyes, the uptick of the mouth, skinny unwashed body, his playfulness with the intended victims, the cat-like movement of his body, the gleeful way he looks at his knife, etc.

Well, anyways, I'm babbling, but if you're into the grittier side of older movies you should definitely check out LADY IN A CAGE.  It's dated (and campy), but I bet back in early 1964 this film packed a wallop.  Especially seeing Olivia de Havilland in a role that was such a departure from what she was known for.