Review by Rumsey Taylor
Posted on 10 July 2004
Source New Horizons Home Video VHS
Roger Corman appears to be a man of sophistication if you hear him speak. He looks like a grandfather, even, listening patiently and entirely kempt, the sort of person you can never picture swearing. This impression is unbefitting of a man who has produced over three hundred films, a substantial number of which are titled with either an action verb, an exclamation point, or both.
His prolificacy his comparatively attainable trait, the remarkably exclusive feature of Roger Corman is his fostering of the careers of some of the more critically prominent contemporary directors. Corman has produced the early features of Martin Scorsese (Boxcar Bertha), Francis Ford Coppola (Dementia 13), Ron Howard (Grand Theft Auto), and James Cameron (Piranha II: The Spawning). Among this string of audacious debuts is Jonathan Demme’s Caged Heat, which I find to be the most laudable of Corman’s training wheels.
Within seconds guns fire and people die. Jacqueline (Erica Gavin, the buxotic title character of Russ Meyer’s Vixen!) is caught and taken to a women’s penitentiary. The location is summarized in a tracking shot across the prison cells that finds moans coming from many women.
In the title alone is the implication that this film is set to depict the sexual thirst of repressed women. Caged Heat is, after all, contractual exploitation, an example of Corman’s trademark bargain filmmaking with obligated nudity and violence. For Demme, conclusively, the film (which he wrote and directed) is an opportunity to transcend the genre. His film has interest in subtext and subversion, a film made for men that stands doubly as an affront to them. There is merit in these intentions, as well as the film’s biography, but Caged Heat is diminished in comparison to Demme’s later works. Corman’s done better as well, and worse.