Pam Grier Week: Women in Cages (1971, Gerardo de Leon)

In Women in Cages, Pam Grier stars as "Ilsa", uh, I mean "Alabama"—an American former prostitute/junkie who cleans up, moves to the Philippines and becomes head-matron of a prison for women. I joke that she is playing Ilsa, when in fact this movie came out four years prior to Ilsa: She-Wolf of the S.S. The similarities are uncanny. The costume is very much like Ilsa's in The Wicked Warden (another Filipino W.I.P. flick, 1977, Jess Franco). Alabama carries a baton, enjoys torturing inmates, and doesn't mind getting her hands dirty. She also meets her end in a fashion similar to those she abuses. The main difference is that Alabama is driven by revenge and lusts only for other women. The revenge aspect is against Americans and gives her a twisted aspect of the '60s Black Power movement.

The story revolves around Jeff (Jennifer Gan) who finds herself in prison after protecting her boyfriend, Rudy (Charlie Davao). Ladies, if you ever have the following exchange with a man you have been seeing, you might want to re-examine the relationship:

Jeff: "I don't even know what you do."
Rudy: "I guess you could say I'm a 'player'."

As the police approach him, Rudy hides a brick of heroine in Jeff's purse and says "if you want to be a player too, you keep your mouth shut." She does. Ah, young love.

So, Jeff finds herself in a cell with Sandy (Judy Brown, The Big Doll House), Theresa (Sofia Moran, The Magnificent Zorro), and Stoke (Roberta Collins, Caged Heat). Sandy is Alabama's former favorite. Theresa is her current favorite (for now). Stoke is a junkie. They all warn Jeff about the "Playpen."

It turns out that Stoke worked for one of Rudy's men, and Rudy has decided he no longer needs Jeff. Of course, he doesn't want her to talk, so they promise Stoke heroine and early release if she kills Jeff. Stoke is not very skilled as a killer, and after a few Keystone Kops attempts involving a poisoned sandwich and later some rolling oil drums, decides to go with Jeff when she plans an escape. They are able to capture Alabama and take her along as a hostage. Eventually she can go no further, so the four women decide to tie her up. Alabama and Theresa both meet their ends at the hands of the hunters.

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