Caged Heat


1h 23m 1974
Caged Heat

Brief Synopsis

A girl is caught in a drug bust and sent to the hoosegow. The iron-handed superintendent takes exception to a skit performed by the girls and takes punitive steps, aided by the sadistic doctor who is doing illegal electroshock experiments and raping drugged prisoners. After a while the prisoners put away their petty differences and plan the Big Prison Escape.

Film Details

Also Known As
Renegade Girls, Renegade Women, Women in Distress
MPAA Rating
Release Date
1974
Production Company
New World Pictures
Distribution Company
New World Pictures

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 23m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (DeLuxe)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.85 : 1

Synopsis

A women's prison is run by a sadistic, wheelchair-bound woman named Barbara Steele. When convict Erica Gavin is falsely accused of trying to escape, she is subjected to torture. Later, Erica and Juanita Brown do attempt an actual jail break, but return to save their friend who is going to be lobotomized by the cruel prison doctor. Erica and Juanita then plan a robbery, but get to the bank to find that a gang of male robbers have beat them to it. Eventually, their time in the hellish prison culminates in a bloody shootout.

Film Details

Also Known As
Renegade Girls, Renegade Women, Women in Distress
MPAA Rating
Release Date
1974
Production Company
New World Pictures
Distribution Company
New World Pictures

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 23m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (DeLuxe)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.85 : 1

Articles

Caged Heat -


Jonathan Demme burst onto the scene with his directorial debut Caged Heat (1974), an exploitation film about women in prison produced by Roger Corman's company New World Pictures. Demme originally planned for a career as a veterinarian but shifted over to movies and became the campus film critic at the University of Florida. After producing TV commercials in London and handling the publicity for Corman's film Von Richthofen and Brown (1971), Corman invited Demme to write a biker exploitation film which resulted in him collaborating with his fellow writer friend Joe Viola on Angels Hard as They Come (1971). After a couple more writing gigs, Demme added directing to his repertoire.

Caged Heat is a genre film that explores the oppression of women through the lens of prison life. Through this microcosm, Demme's film offers subtle social commentary on gender inequality and the inability of the prison system to properly rehabilitate its inmates. At the time, the women-in-prison sub-genre was going out of fashion, but Demme elevates his B picture with his ingenuity and attention to detail. Caged Heatis firmly tongue-in-cheek with all the elements that made the classic Corman formula: nudity, violence and action. It's voyeuristic with the women in various states of undress, and it depicts horrifying forms of physical and mental torture including solitary confinement, electroshock therapy and lobotomy, making the prisoners' eventual mutiny all that more satisfying.

The movie boasts an almost all-female cast and stars Erica Gavin as Jacqueline Wilson, a new inmate serving jail time for being an accessory to a crime during a drug bust. Her fellow inmates include Maggie (Juanita Brown), who sits atop the prison's social hierarchy; Belle (Roberta Collins), the resident kleptomaniac; Pandora (Ella Reid), an inmate put into solitary confinement under harsh conditions; and Lavelle (Rainbeaux Smith), a lifer accused of killing the son of a government official after he raped her friend. The prison is led by a sadistic, wheelchair-bound superintendent McQueen (Barbara Steele) and a deranged and sex-obsessed Dr. Randolph (Warren Miller). The cast is primarily made up of B-movie and genre actresses who had short careers in Hollywood. The film's star Erica Gavin made only six films, including the genre classic Vixen! (1968), and left Hollywood for good after making Caged Heat to become a stylist and personal shopper. Barbara Steele, best known for making Italian horror films, had taken a break from acting and Caged Heat was her return to movies.

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Demme said, "I asked Roger [Corman] if there was any chance of directing, and he said, 'Okay, write a women's prison movie.'" At New World Pictures in those days, the titles and release dates were set before there was even a script. Roger made sure that he could book a women's prison movie in thousands of theaters, and then he'd say, "Okay, we better make this." Caged Heat was made on a tight schedule and for a budget of $180,000, much of which Demme raised himself. Originally called Renegade Women, the final title was inspired by two classic movies in particular: director John Cromwell's women in prison drama Caged (1950) starring Eleanor Parker and director Raoul Walsh's film noir White Heat (1949) starring James Cagney. Demme and Corman would go on to work on a few more projects together but eventually Demme graduated from B-movie production. The two stayed lifelong friends and Corman played small roles in Demme's films: The Silence of the Lambs (1991), for which he won the Academy Award for Best Director, Philadelphia (1993), The Manchurian Candidate (2004) and Rachel Getting Married (2008).

Caged Heat was a success for New World Pictures. According to Demme biographer Michael Bliss, "In a somewhat formulaic women's prison picture, Demme is aided by the fact that the genre brings with it so many ideas concerning oppression and sexual exploitation that he has a firm base on which to structure his film." Caged Heat offered viewers all the classic elements of an exploitation film they enjoyed, in particular sex and sadistic violence, and added social critique that was both timely and relevant. It doesn't take itself or its audience too seriously and in the decades since, its release has become a cult classic among genre and exploitation film fans.

By Raquel Stecher
Caged Heat -

Caged Heat -

Jonathan Demme burst onto the scene with his directorial debut Caged Heat (1974), an exploitation film about women in prison produced by Roger Corman's company New World Pictures. Demme originally planned for a career as a veterinarian but shifted over to movies and became the campus film critic at the University of Florida. After producing TV commercials in London and handling the publicity for Corman's film Von Richthofen and Brown (1971), Corman invited Demme to write a biker exploitation film which resulted in him collaborating with his fellow writer friend Joe Viola on Angels Hard as They Come (1971). After a couple more writing gigs, Demme added directing to his repertoire. Caged Heat is a genre film that explores the oppression of women through the lens of prison life. Through this microcosm, Demme's film offers subtle social commentary on gender inequality and the inability of the prison system to properly rehabilitate its inmates. At the time, the women-in-prison sub-genre was going out of fashion, but Demme elevates his B picture with his ingenuity and attention to detail. Caged Heatis firmly tongue-in-cheek with all the elements that made the classic Corman formula: nudity, violence and action. It's voyeuristic with the women in various states of undress, and it depicts horrifying forms of physical and mental torture including solitary confinement, electroshock therapy and lobotomy, making the prisoners' eventual mutiny all that more satisfying. The movie boasts an almost all-female cast and stars Erica Gavin as Jacqueline Wilson, a new inmate serving jail time for being an accessory to a crime during a drug bust. Her fellow inmates include Maggie (Juanita Brown), who sits atop the prison's social hierarchy; Belle (Roberta Collins), the resident kleptomaniac; Pandora (Ella Reid), an inmate put into solitary confinement under harsh conditions; and Lavelle (Rainbeaux Smith), a lifer accused of killing the son of a government official after he raped her friend. The prison is led by a sadistic, wheelchair-bound superintendent McQueen (Barbara Steele) and a deranged and sex-obsessed Dr. Randolph (Warren Miller). The cast is primarily made up of B-movie and genre actresses who had short careers in Hollywood. The film's star Erica Gavin made only six films, including the genre classic Vixen! (1968), and left Hollywood for good after making Caged Heat to become a stylist and personal shopper. Barbara Steele, best known for making Italian horror films, had taken a break from acting and Caged Heat was her return to movies. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Demme said, "I asked Roger [Corman] if there was any chance of directing, and he said, 'Okay, write a women's prison movie.'" At New World Pictures in those days, the titles and release dates were set before there was even a script. Roger made sure that he could book a women's prison movie in thousands of theaters, and then he'd say, "Okay, we better make this." Caged Heat was made on a tight schedule and for a budget of $180,000, much of which Demme raised himself. Originally called Renegade Women, the final title was inspired by two classic movies in particular: director John Cromwell's women in prison drama Caged (1950) starring Eleanor Parker and director Raoul Walsh's film noir White Heat (1949) starring James Cagney. Demme and Corman would go on to work on a few more projects together but eventually Demme graduated from B-movie production. The two stayed lifelong friends and Corman played small roles in Demme's films: The Silence of the Lambs (1991), for which he won the Academy Award for Best Director, Philadelphia (1993), The Manchurian Candidate (2004) and Rachel Getting Married (2008). Caged Heat was a success for New World Pictures. According to Demme biographer Michael Bliss, "In a somewhat formulaic women's prison picture, Demme is aided by the fact that the genre brings with it so many ideas concerning oppression and sexual exploitation that he has a firm base on which to structure his film." Caged Heat offered viewers all the classic elements of an exploitation film they enjoyed, in particular sex and sadistic violence, and added social critique that was both timely and relevant. It doesn't take itself or its audience too seriously and in the decades since, its release has become a cult classic among genre and exploitation film fans. By Raquel Stecher

Quotes

Trivia

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States September 1996

Released in United States Winter January 1, 1974

Released in United States Winter January 1, 1974

Released in United States September 1996 (Shown in New York City (American Museum of the Moving Image) as part of program "Corman's Children" September 7-28, 1996.)