Thursday, June 23, 2022

CAGED HEAT! (1974) (101 Films Blu-ray Review)

CAGED HEAT! (1974)

Label: 101 Films
Region Code: B
Rating: 18 Cert. 
Duration: 80 Minutes 
Audio: English PCM Dual-Mono with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1) 
Director: Jonathan Demme
Cast: Erica Gavin, Barbara Steele, Roberta Collins, Rainbeaux Smith 

‘70s exploitation classic Caged Heat! (1974) was the directorial debut of Jonathan Demme (The Silence of the Lambs), who once upon a time was one of Roger Corman's stable of writers, editor, and director. Corman gave him his first directing gig with this WIP/road movie hybrid which stars Erica Gavin (Beyond the Valley of the Dolls) as the wayward but likable Jacqueline who at the start of the film is busted by undercover cops after some sort of ill-fated criminal enterprise, during which her boyfriend is shot and killed during the pulse-pounding opening scenes. Jacqueline ends up at the Connorville correctional facility, run by the wicked wheelchair-bound warden McQueen (Barbara Steele, Nightmare Castle) and her depraved staff, including hard edged prison guards and Dr. Randolph (Warren Miller, Crazy Mama), who is not only a sexual creep but is subjecting the unruly women to illegal shock treatment procedures to curb their rebellious incliniations.

Behind bars Erica comes up against badass alpha-chic Maggie (Juanita Brown, Foxy Brown) while developing friendships with Belle (Roberta Collins, Death Race 2000), Pandora (Ella Reid), Lavelle (Rainbeaux Smith, Massacre At Central High), and Crazy Alice (Crystin Sinclaire). Eventually the rivalry between Maggie and Jacqueline results in the women being severely punished, with Maggie getting taste of the electro-shock therapy, after which she decides she'd prefer not to experience that again, eventually teaming-up with Maggie and the other inmates escapr Connorville. Its a wild escape during a trip to the prison run labor ranch/orchard, while picking oranges the ladies get the upper hand on the armed security detail and bust out, embarking on a fugitive road trip, with the women brazenly returning to the prison a few days later to free their fellow inmates in a wild and blood-soaked finale.

Caged Heat! hits all the tried and true WIP tropes; we get the wicked warden, cat fights, plenty of sudsy shower nudity, rape and all that usual salacious stuff, but Demme infuses the flick with some fresh blood by way of artful editing, a couple of surreal fantasy sequences, and a bit of camp (but not too much) with a sly sense of humor that keeps this mostly playful and not as dire as some more brutal WIP entries, its definitely more on the Reform School Girls end of the spectrum and a ton of fun. The film is also enhanced by a great score from John Cale (he of the The Velvet Underground) and cinematography by Tak Fujimoto (The Sixth Sense). 

Audio/Video: Caged Heat (1974) arrives on Region B Blu-ray from 101 Films in 1080p HD, licensed from Shout! Factory. The film is framed in the original 1.85:1 widescreen and  sourced from a 2K scan of the original camera negative. Grain looks quite nice with good colors and fair detail in the close-ups, there's a few minor blemishes that appear but nothing egregious. Audio comes by way of of 2.0 dual-mono LPCM, dialogue sounds natural and well-balanced with the louder moments of gunfire exchange and the great score from John Cale coming through with gusto.

Extras include an Audio Commentary with writer/director Jonathan Demme, director of photography Tak Fujimoto and actress Erica Gavin, that's is plenty humorous, a jovial sit down with the trio that gets into what it was like working for Corman, the script, the influences on the film. There's also an archival seemingly VHS-sourced 5-minute Leonard Maltin interviews Roger Corman featuring the producer speaking on the film and Demme's success in Hollywood, plus a 3-minute Theatrical Trailer and a 2-min Still Gallery containing movie posters and lobby cards. The single-disc release arrives in an oversized, clear Scanavo keepcase with a single-sided sleeve of artwork featuring the pretty fantastic original movie poster, 

Special Features
- 2K scan from the Original Camera Negative
- Audio Commentary with writer/director Jonathan Demme, director of photography Tak Fujimoto and actress Erica Gavin
- Leonard Maltin interviews Roger Corman (5 min) 
- Theatrical Trailer (3 min) 
- Still Gallery (2 min) 

Caged Heat (1974) is super entertaining slice of women-in-prison exploitation that manages to both wallow in and go beyond the usual WIP tropes to offer a satirical and humor infused watch that holds up. The 101 Films Blu-ray is terrific, and if you missed out on the now OOP Shout! Factory Blu-ray (and are region-free) this is a must-own for any exploitation film fan. 

Screenshots from the 101 Films Blu-ray: