Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Lady in a Cage (1964) - ★★★★

Director: Walter Grauman
Writer: Luther Davis
Stars: Olivia de Havilland, James Caan, Ann Sothern, Jeff Corey, Jennifer Billingsley, Rafael Campos, William Swan

Lady in a Cage is such an exhilarating movie! Olivia de Havilland is one of my all time favourite actresses, and her performance in this film is up there with her very best work (Oscar worthy stuff). It has a wildly interesting concept, fantastic supporting performances, masterful cinematography, and heaps of suspense. What more could you ask for really? It's like watching a Hitchcock film, but it's refreshingly different. There's a more modern, defiant edge to Lady in a Cage. It drops in some social commentary through hinting of the degradation of society's youth, the absurdity of people paying taxes to feed criminals, and there's even a homosexual character (well, I assume he was a homo). That's pretty big for the 1960s. It does this without sounding too preachy, because we're mainly focused on its tale of survival. The whole way through my heart was beating fast, hoping that our protagonist would make it out alive. That's why this is such a great film.

Guess what Lady in a Cage is about! ... That's right! A lady, quite literally, gets stuck in a cage. The cage being an elevator of course (I thought it was going to be a jail cell, but I was wrong once again). Mrs. Hilyard (Olivia de Havilland) is an older woman with a bad hip who needs a walking stick and elevator to get around the house. When the electricity shuts off whilst she's in the elevator, she finds herself stuck in there like a bird in a cage. She can't get out, because it's suspended very high off the ground. When criminals soon learn of her being incapacitated, her house in ransacked by a drunk, a chubby female hustler, three young criminals, and even a gang of pawn shop working thieves. It's a wildly awesome movie, and one that really surprised me.

It's no surprise that James Caan went far after his debut.
There are a number of notable and great things in this film. I guess the most notable aspect is that it's James Caan's first feature film, and he's fantastic in it! Imagine Stanley from A Streetcar Named Desire, but with heaps of hair on his body and a receding hairline. Caan played a nasty, gross, but good looking criminal (I say good-looking grudgingly, because his character is the biggest turn off there is). If you're a fan of Caan, you'll love this film.

I personally felt that the greatest aspect of Lady in a Cage was the lady herself, Olivia de Havilland. She's arguably the greatest actress of all time, so it was no surprise to see her turn in another great performance. The fears and emotions she expressed immediately separated her character in this film from any other that she's previously played. The chilling conviction in the way de Havilland screamed "PLEASE!" was just... brilliant. Words aren't strong enough to describe it. The way she'd talk to herself was at first entertaining, but as the stakes were raised it became really unsettling. Even though we all know de Havilland best for playing such sweet and lovely ladies, she really unsettles you with her performance here. The most masterful aspect of her performance is the fear and determination that is carved onto her face. She ages about 10 years when she's scared or trying to escape, and that's what makes it so suspenseful! Like I said, it was an Oscar worthy performance!

Ann Sothern and Jeff Corley as 'The Hustler' and 'The Bum."
Ann Sothern is an absolute legend! I can't believe she played a fat, pathetic prostitute (or hustler as she called it). This is the same woman who sang "The Last Time I saw Paris," and "You'll Never Know" from the great film Lady Be Good (1941). It was a surprisingly natural performance. I didn't even recognise her! I mean, wow! God I love her! The supporting performances by Jeff Corley, Jennifer Billingsley and Rafael Campos were each really great and memorable in a way too.

Lady in a Cage just had so many awesome ingredients that mixed into a great movie. To sum things up, the effective cinematography, suspenseful music, masterful acting, thrilling story, and an unpredictable ending is what made me love it. If you like Hitchcock or just thrilling movies in general, then I think this is a must-see!

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