Lady in a Cage
Director: Walter Grauman
Writer: Luther Davis
Starring: Olivia de Havilland, James Caan, Jennifer Billingsley
Review By: Griff
I took it easy on you guys last week and went with some lighter fare but we snapping back to the dark side this week with one of the OG’s of the home invasion genre, Lady in Cage! This is James Caan’s first starring role (although not his first picture) and he plays a brutal character that he modeled after Marlon Brando in Streetcar Named Desire.
Olivia de Havilland (yes that Olivia de Havilland) is Cornelia Hilyard, a wealthy widow who is recovering from hip surgery. In order to get to the second floor of her house she has an elevator installed. On this particular day Cornelia is taking the lift upstairs when the power goes out and traps her between floors. Fortunately for her she has an emergency button that rings a bell outside the house. Instead of someone coming to rescue her however, the bell lures a bum (Jeff Corey) into the house. He steals some bottles of wine and then walks off with Cornelia’s toaster which he takes to a local pawn shop. Randall (James Caan) and his two lackeys Elaine and Essie (Jennifer Billingsley and Rafael Campos) also happen to be at the pawn shop and they decide to follow the bum and see what he is up to. The bum goes to visit Sade (Ann Sothern) a local hustler who he is enamored with. Together the two of them decide to go back to Cornelia’s house and rob the place blind.
Randall and his gang follow them there and attack the two of them taking them captive in the house. What follows is a whole bit of nastiness as the crew torture the bum, Sade, Cornelia, and even each other. Cornelia realizes that not only is she trapped but she is now fighting for her life.
This was a surprisingly graphic film for 1964 and couple of scenes surprised me. Especially the end sequence. You can definitley see the influence of this film on movies like The Strangers, Funny Games, and to some extent Last House on the Left.
James Caan is great as the brutish gang leader and he is a highlight here. Olivia de Haviland well, lets just say that there was never any danger of her winning her 3rd Oscar for this one. Jeff Corey who plays the bum is also hamming it up pretty good. Jennifer Billingsley and Rafael Campos as the two lackeys were both pretty interesting though. (Although I wouldn’t call their performances subtle either.)
Lady in a Cage also tried to have some things to say about society and how no one helps each other. No one responds to Cornelia’s bell for example and latter she is trying to get people’s attention on a busy street and everyone just ignores her and goes about their business. There is some other interesting stuff going on with the relationship between Cornelia and her son (who has gone away for the weekend) that borders on creepy.
So if you are looking for something off the beaten path and want to see a movie that has definitely influenced a few other films than you should Lady in a Cage a try. It gets 2 guys from me.