Mr. Skin vs Roger Corman: The Chicks Behind Bars Movie Face-Off
Never let it be said that we don’t do serious journalism here at Maxim
Never let it be said that we don’t do serious journalism here at Maxim
So you have a burning desire to experience women’s prison, but you’re an “X” short in the chromosome department and possess neither the means nor the desire to pull off a reverse Chas Bono? Well, friend, the Women in Prison triple pack and Women in Cages Collection provide the perfect sex kitten antidote to sausage fests like Shawshank Redemption and Assault on Precinct 13. Alas, these are tough economic times. What’s the budget-conscious sexploitation enthusiast savvy enough to avoid that bargain bin copy of Black Snake Moan to do? Read the following, of course!
Mr. Skin Presents: Women in Prison:
Chained Heat (1983), Red Heat (1985), Jungle Warriors (1984)
Roger Corman’s Cult Classics: The Women in Cages Collection:
Big Doll House (1971), Women in Cages (1971), The Big Bird Cage (1972)
SKIN: Linda Blair (Chained Heat, Red Heat)
CORMAN: Anitra Ford (The Big Bird Cage)
VERDICT: When new fish Linda Blair’s boobs are aggressively soaped against her will by Aryan gang leader Sybil Danning at the outset of Chained Heat, who could imagine the one-time pea soup-spewer would be the one to end a race war and bring down a corrupt prison administration, all while showing more skin than Spartacus? Not us! Yet it is former Price is Right vixen Anitra Ford’s smoldering turn as the sardonic, defiant, (very) sexually liberated jet-setting seductress Terry that will have you peddling your soul to Pazuzu for a day as Bob Barker, circa 1972. It doesn’t hurt, of course, that sweet Anitra will never taunt you in your dead mother’s voice, mistake a crucifix for a dildo, or spin her head all the way around in the middle of a XXX Showcase Showdown.
SKIN: John Vernon, Chained Heat
CORMAN: Pam Grier, Women in Cages
VERDICT: In Chained Heat, John Vernon takes the administrating philosophy of The Big Bird Cage camp commandant Andy Centenera—“The main rules here are no fighting and no fornication with any one, of any kind, ever”—and turns it utterly on its head. That’s right: Faber College Dean Vernon Wormer has loosened up quite a bit since Animal House. The first few minutes of Chained Heat find him carousing in his personal office hot tub with a naughty inmate portrayed by former Penthouse Pet Monique Gabriel, insisting “Don’t call me ‘Warden,’ call me Fellini!” as he uses the closed-circuit prison camera system to film the entire sexcapade.
But Vernon is no match for Pam Grier’s Alabama in Women in Cages, an American expatriate who has somehow been promoted to head matron of a Philippine prison. Alabama’s pimped out the joint out with a red-lit lesbian romper room and a Pilates studio re-imagined by the gang who brought you the Spanish Inquisition, dubbed The Playpen. She sees Vernon’s shag carpet and yellow parakeet and raises him a bullwhip and snakes. When a prisoner tells her to go to Hell, Alabama replies, “I’ll send you ahead of me” and comes at her with a pitchfork. Bluto never knew how easy he had it.
SKIN: Steamy mist
CORMAN: Unrelenting deluge
VERDICT: Although The Big Bird Cage features a brief-but-dazzling scene of Anitra Ford pampering herself beneath the tinkling of a low pressure bamboo showerhead, the Corman ablutions overall lean more toward realist decontaminations, replete with hoses, delousing equipment, bloodcurdling screams, and a Philippine guard who takes an approach to vaginal inspection typically reserved for removing leaves from a rain gutter. To each his own, of course, but I’m 90 percent certain the Skin set’s lesbian trysts and enthusiastic self-abusers—who, together, hit more ecstatic octaves than an R&B wannabee at an American Idol tryout—are what Ron Paul is referring to when he talks about the gold standard.
SKIN: None. Unless the Bataan Wet T-shirt Match in the first act of Jungle Warriors counts.
CORMAN: Various and sundry.
VERDICT: Shooting in the Philippines, Corman naturally rules this roost. Transporting large quantities of mud into the snitch-carving boiler room abattoir of Chained Heat or the Red Heat East German machine shop would have required a suspension of disbelief a magnitude greater than the only-hot-women-go-to-prison leap we’ve already been asked to take.
TORTURE EVEN JOHN YOO COULDN’T JUSTIFY
SKIN: Jungle Warriors
CORMAN: Women in Cages
VERDICT: And the Cheney goes to…Women in Cages. That’s right, Pam Grier’s Alabama was waterboarding motherfuckers for dinner back in 1971, and putting them in electrified Barbarella-esque metal breast cups for dessert. Sure, nasty Andy Centenera hangs Anitra Ford high by a knot of her hair in The Big Bird Cage, but his engineering efforts primarily go to pressing sugar out of cane with the contraption of the film’s title. That kind of mass produced sweetness wouldn’t elicit much more than a smirk from a lady who owns a home guillotine and is determined to return the phrase “fire crotch” to its pre-Amy Adams etymology.
SKIN: Hilariously inept
CORMAN: Neophyte mimes with guns
VERDICT: Imagine the residents from Raymond Babbitt’s Rain Man performing hand-to-hand combat sequences from The Expendables and you’ll have a decent idea of the campy fight choreography that awaits you in Women in Prison. Meanwhile, scads of the Women in Cages set feels like video smuggled out of some amateur improv class after gunfight night. All of it is part and parcel of the exploitation experience, of course, but it’s the girl lathering herself up in chicken fat to gain advantage in her tussle with guards in The Big Bird Cage that makes this Corman FTW.
SKIN: Ericka in Heat: An Interview With Sybil Danning
CORMAN: From Manila with Love: The Making of Big Doll House and The Big Bird Cage.
VERDICT:Sybil Danning waxing poetic about how Chained Heat empowered and inspired women shortly after Mr. Skin—a self-professed fan of Danning’s “36C chest missiles”—describes the film’s setting as “One prison where you’ll want to get sent to the hole” is a priceless example of contrasting perspectives. The Corman doc has much to recommend it as well: Big Doll House/Big Bird Cage director Jack Hill airily comparing the “obligatory” triad of the women-in-prison genre—mass showers, mud fighting, torture—to the sword fights and comedy characters of Shakespeare, for example, or the hilarious parade of behind-the-scenes anecdotes recounted by stars such as Teda Bracci (“I sat on the man’s face and that was it!”) and Judy Brown (“When they put my head in the toilet, they really put my head in the toilet. And it was trippy!”).
However, it is the Big Bird Cage’s Sid Haig’s eloquent soliloquy on himself-as-the-genre’s-target-audience that ejaculates hope all over every geek’s lonely, dreamer’s heart: “There was always, like, nine naked women and me…No complaints, particularly from a guy who couldn’t get a date in high school, okay? I mean, I had terminal acne. I couldn’t get a date with a box of chocolates, a dozen roses, and a handgun.”
Final Winner – Corman, who romps away with a 6-1 thrashing of Mr. Skin’s collection (an activity that both sets would probably appreciate).