14 July 2005 | ags123
Sharply observed details elevate this lurid shocker.
"Lady In A Cage" was far ahead of its time. Compared to the rest of the lurid shockers produced in the early 1960s featuring aging Hollywood stars (including de Havilland's other 1964 appearance in "Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte") this film, along with "What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?" transcended the genre. But while "Baby Jane" had a lot to say about the price of fame, "Lady In A Cage" rightly predicted the impending chaos of a rapidly changing society.
Nothing about the basic premise (a middle-aged woman trapped in her house is terrorized by vagrants and thugs) suggests a deep sociological study. What elevates the ensuing events are the sharply observed details: the neighborhood in transition, the alienated masses isolated by endless traffic, the hoodlums' utter lack of conscience, and most of all, de Havilland's expert performance as the lone representative of the civilized world. Her undoing serves as a cautionary tale for a society on the brink. de Havilland makes this otherwise unsavory film exceedingly watchable. As her secrets are uncovered, she finds herself culpable as well. Everyone is caught in the inexorable downward spiral.
Despite the heavy themes, the film is highly accessible, even fun, if you take a jaundiced view. Not quite as campy as "Baby Jane" perhaps, but on some level, just as iconic. It's a film that stands up well to repeated viewings. Great graphic title sequence, modern music, sharp- focus black and white photography. Overall, fine work by everyone involved.