Top positive review
One of the very first of the 70's WIP films.
Reviewed in the United States on November 19, 2014
These are the films that started the Women In Prison (WIP) craze, so, I'll review one of the first, THE BIG DOLL HOUSE (1971):
This film, along with THE BIG BIRD CAGE (1972; both directed by Jack Hill), has the distinction of kick-starting the 70's WIP (women in prison) craze. Tough-as-nails Marnie Collier (Judy Brown) is sent to a "Banana Republic" prison (actually lensed in the Philippines) for 99 years on a false murder conviction. After being thoroughly searched in every orifice, she is thrown in a dingy cell with Alcott (Roberta Collins), Harrad (Brooke Mills), Bodine (Pat Woodell) and lesbian Grear (Pam Grier), who takes an instant shine to Collier. The prison's female warden, Miss Dietrich (Christiane Schmidtmer), is a Bible-quoting she-b**** who's not above murder to keep her prisoners in line. Bodine plans on escaping after she gets a smuggled-in letter from her revolutionary boyfriend telling her that he needs her badly, but someone snitches to Miss Dietrich about the letter and she has Bodine tortured, first by suspending her in a small bamboo cage in the blazing sun and then bringing her to a dungeon, where she is waterboarded and whipped by brutal head guard Lucian (Kathryn Loder) while some unknown person watches in the shadows. Bodine is brought back to her cell bloody and bruised, now even more determined to escape and join her boyfriend. Two black marketeers, Harry (Sid Haig) and his new partner Fred (Jerry Franks), make weekly trips to the prison and supply the women prisoners with a wide range of goods, including drugs, cigarettes and smuggled information, but it all comes with a price, mainly sex. When Miss Dietrich catches Alcott having sex with the inexperienced Fred, she becomes the next torture victim in the dungeon. Alcott is shocked with electricity by Lucian (she attaches electrodes to Alcott's breasts and private parts) while the same unknown person watches in the shadows. The girls put their differences aside and plan an escape, using a cat and the unwitting duo of Harry and Fred in their attempt. It almost comes undone when junkie Harrad stabs Grear in the neck in a fit of jealous rage, killing her. Collier is then tortured with a cobra by Lucian in the dungeon, but Alcott, Bodine and Ferrina (Gina Stuart) rescue her, overpower Lucian and discover the identity of the person hiding in the shadows (it's Miss Dietrich, who gets her sexual jollies by watching prisoners tortured and killed!). The girls then break out of prison, but not everyone will escape with their lives. During the fatalistic, yet strangely satisfying, conclusion, all the women are either killed or recaptured, but not before Miss Dietrich receives her just rewards. This thoroughly sadistic, yet highly watchable, exploitationer delivers the goods, thanks to the cast of beautiful female genre vets and the expert direction of Jack Hill, who also gave us such low-budget classics like SPIDER BABY (1964), COFFY (1973), FOXY BROWN (1974) and SWITCHBLADE SISTERS (1975). Hill only directed a handful of films in his career, yet he always seemed to know what audiences wanted: Namely, copious amounts of nudity and plenty of violence. THE BIG DOLL HOUSE doesn't disappoint, as every female in the cast has at least one nude scene (including a boner-inducing fight between Roberta Collins and Pam Grier in a mud pit) and loads of mind-boggling violence, usually by the hands of Lucian in her torture dungeon. This was one of Roger Corman's earliest hits for his New World Pictures production outfit (both Corman and Cirio H. Santiago are uncredited producers) and it's easy to see why. Besides Jack Hill's direction, the cast gives their all here, stripping-off their clothes, getting into catfights and, finally, working together to escape their hellhole. It's no wonder this film spawned countless other WIP flicks. It's well-made, violent (some of the torture devices are downright bizarre), exciting and, surprisingly, contains some real human drama. One of the earliest WIP movies to take advantage of the R-rating and still one of the best. Pam Grier sings the opening tune, "Long Time Woman". John Ashley and Eddie Romero were the Executive Producers. Also starring Jack Davis and Letty Mirasol. Available on THE WOMEN IN CAGES COLLECTION, a collection of three films on 2 DVDs, also including THE BIG BIRD CAGE (1972) and WOMEN IN CAGES (1971), released by Shout! Factory. Rated R.