The Big Bird Cage DVD review

Luke spends some time with Roger Corman's production of The Big Bird Cage, as it arrives on DVD...

Lovers of the exclamation point will have a field day with The Big Bird Cage. A 70s exploitation flick made by the man who would go on to direct two defining pictures of the blaxpoitation era, it has the kind of outrageous storyline that no amount of punctuation can do justice to. 

Because this is a film that has its sexually aggressive leading woman sent to prison! And not just any prison, a Philippine Jungle prison! Teeming with other scantily clad female prisoners! And mud wrestling!

Director Jack Hill’s next two films were Coffy and Foxy Brown. He’s the kind of director you can imagine Quentin Tarantino having an entire DVD shelf devoted to. (Indeed, Tarantino would write the role of The Judge in Jackie Brown specifically for The Big Bird Cage‘s leading man Sid Haig, having him face off against his old 70s sparring partner Pam Grier.)

So knowing the output of Hill, and that this is a Roger Corman exercise in tongue-in-cheek debauchery, sense and sensibility are two things you don’t expect to find going into The Big Bird Cage. Not in a film that features one woman shouting a warning to her fellow inmates: “My God, she’s covered in chicken fat!”

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It’s a line that fits in well with the film’s loony premise, wherein Haig’s Django and Pam Grier’s Blossom hatch a plan to break into the jungle prison to recruit a gang of female inmates to their revolutionary cause. But then, people didn’t go to these types of exploitation films for their stirring tales. It was the bits in between the plot that mattered, and The Big Bird Cage has plenty to offer fans of the genre.

Not least, a fight between a knife-wielding Grier and Haig armed with a plucked chicken, finished off with a bit of mud action; a gay jungle guard who breaks up an attempted gang rape of an escaped female inmate and then lets out a wistful, “Gargh, nothing like that ever happens to me!”; a good few shower scenes; more mud wrestling; a dying prisoner imploring her fellow escapee, “Get yourself a good lay for me, will ya?”

As fun as it is, however, there’s only so much cheesy acting and mud wrestling you can watch before it starts to feel a bit dull. And The Big Bird Cage moves past that point quite soon into its 96 minutes.

It wisely throws a big stunts-and-explosions finale into the mix to go out with a bang, but it could have done with a bit more variety on the women-are-sexually-liberated aggressors, men-are-timid-homosexuals line it ploughs for so long. After a while, a guard looking longingly at Sid Haig’s hairy belly button stops being funny.

It’s a film very much of its time, the kind lampooned so well by Grindhouse‘s fake trailers, but also reflected so accurately by Tarantino’s one-note Death Proof.

Rodriguez had the right idea with Planet Terror, throwing everything he could into it to create a film that barely paused for breath. Like Tarantino’s offering, The Big Bird Cage doesn’t have enough variety in its cheap thrills to really excite.

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Fans of scantily-clad-women-imprisoned-in-gay-guard-manned-Philippine-jungle-prison films, however, are in for a treat.


Nothing. Nada. Zip. The Roger Corman Collection DVDs are consistent in their scant offerings. 

The Film:

2 stars
The Disc:

The Big Bird Cage is out now and available from the Den Of Geek Store.


2 out of 5