Thursday, March 16, 2006

CAGED HEAT

CAGED HEAT (1974) is the archetypal Roger Corman WIP film. Best known today as the directorial debut of Jonathan Demme, HEAT embraces every clich̩ and convention of the genre Рfrom the sexually deviant (in this case, frigid) female warden (Barbara Steele, BLACK SUNDAY), to the perverted prison doctor, shower room catfights, sapphic sex, and gun-blazing climax.

The cast, which includes Roberta Collins (BIG DOLL HOUSE), Juanita Brown and the late Cheryl "Rainbeaux" Smith (THE SWINGING CHEERLEADERS), is better than average for a movie like this, sexy and savage in turns. And while there's nothing particularly stylish in the direction, the pace is good and it never gets boring.

Buena Vista's new DVD is identical to the previous disc offered by Corman's New Concorde label, right down to the full-frame (1.33:1) transfer and mono soundtrack. The picture is solid and in surprisingly good shape, with only minimal age-related wear and damage. It even includes the puffy "Leonard Maltin interviews Roger Corman" featurette that graced the original release. The only other features are text bios for some of the cast & crew and the original theatrical trailer.

I'm very disappointed that Buena Vista/Disney isn't taking the opportunity to properly matte these films and give them anamorphic enhancement. With the home video market racing towards hi-def and widescreen TVs, it seems very shortsighted – and lazy – on their part. They have an opportunity here to re-invigorate these perennial crowd pleasers for today's more sophisticated film buffs and collectors, but they're taking the easy route and screwing the fans with substandard product. Typical Disney, unfortunately. Too bad Corman couldn't have licensed these films to a company like Blue Underground or Anchor Bay…

Well, despite its technical shortcomings, CAGED HEAT is a classic of the WIP genre and is recommended for fans.

BUY: Caged Heat