Cage Without a Key (1975)

TV Movie   |    |  Drama

A teenage girl's charismatic boyfriend frames her in a robbery and she finds herself convicted of first-degree murder.

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31 October 2008 | sonya90028
| Hard-hitting 70s teen drama.
I remember Cage Without A Key, being broadcast as a CBS prime-time movie in the 70s. This was when there was a sudden explosion of TV movies about troubled teens, from suburbia.

Doe-eyed, fresh-faced Susan Dey, plays Valerie Smith. Valerie is a very naive teen. She gets involved in a robbery/murder, after accepting a ride from a strange boy. He forces Valerie to help him rob a store at gunpoint, and he winds-up killing someone in the process.

Even though she was unwillingly involved in the crime, Valerie gets sentenced to a stretch in a Juvenile prison facility. The severity of her sentence is absurd, considering that Valerie had no prior criminal history. I thought that this seriously undermined the credibility, of the film's whole storyline.

Once inside the Juvenile facility, Valerie is engaged in a bewildering struggle to adjust to her new surroundings. Valerie's told from the get-go by the other inmates, that she must choose which clique to belong to. This is to ensure her survival in the 'joint'.

The inmates are a motley crew of tough, hardened young women. The members of the 'good' clique, take Valerie under their wing, showing her the 'ropes' of prison life. They also offer Valerie protection from the clique rivalries, that sometimes result in violence. A member of Valerie's clique, even rescues her from being unwillingly ravished, by an intensely amorous lesbian inmate.

The prison staff, don't seem to be able to control the chaotic environment. Valerie and her fellow inmates, are forced to rely solely on the support of their cliques, to negotiate prison life. The lawyers procured by Valerie's parents, are amazingly inept at helping make a case to free Valerie. Unable to depend on being proved innocent, Valerie becomes ever-deeply entrenched in the violent prison culture, which results in senseless tragedy.

Cage Without A Key is a powerful film. I was surprised to see such a raw, hard-hitting drama, on network TV during the 70s. It is at times, rather melodramatic. Overall though, it has some strong performances. Especially Susan Dey, as the hapless Valerie Smith. If you liked those 70s movie-of-the-week films about teens in jeopardy, then I'd recommend seeing Cage Without a Key.

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