This 2-disc bargain offers two great Jack Hill classics--1971's THE BIG DOLL HOUSE, 1972's THE BIG BIRD CAGE and both feature commentary tracks by Hill (recorded about a decade ago) and a third film, WOMEN IN CAGES, that was shot in-between those two films (but by Gerry DeLeon, not Hill). BIRD CAGE and WIC share a disc while DOLL HOUSE is on another DVD with a wonderful new documentary, FROM MANILA WITH LOVE that features brand new interviews with writer/director Jack Hill, screenwriter James Gordon White, producers Roger Corman and Jane Schaffer and actors from both films including Sid Haig, Judy Brown, Anitra Ford, Roberta Collins, Candice Roman and Teda Bracci. Sadly, Pam Grier does not take part in the documentary. There is also one other special feature: a solo interview with Judy Brown (this set does not contain Leonard Maltin's interviews with Roger Corman).
All three films are presented in anamorphic widescreen. A note in an insert says that "Two separate film elements were used to put together a complete version of THE BIG BIRD CAGE--a CRI and the original negative, which had been cut at some point." Both DOLL HOUSE and BIRD CAGE look and sound sensational.
On the other hand, WOMEN IN CAGES (which reunited three of DOLL HOUSE's cast members--Grier, Judy Brown and Roberta Collins, but appears to have been shot with an even smaller budget and without any of the style Jack Hill brought to his two films) has muddy sound. The same booklet warns, "We used the only available source material for the audio on WOMEN IN CAGES, which was not in pristine condition. Much of the audio for these films shot in the Philippines was done later in post production, as you'll find that not all lip movements match the dialogue." WOMEN is the least fun of the trio. It does boast an over-the-top, nasty-as-hell villain performance by Pam Grier (in just her second role), but while the two Hill productions are beautiful to look at and take full advantage of shooting in the tropical paradise, WOMEN keeps its shots claustrophobic and close. The few outdoor shots are usually shot at night or nearing dawn (with smoke effects to further mask the cheap budget). One whole action sequence on the beach near the end is shot in silhouette, which makes it impossible to even see which of the women is being chased and shot at. There's such a lack of location footage that you'd almost think it was shot on a NY backlot! WOMEN plays almost like a horror film with Pam's torture chamber almost like out of a German S/M porn film.
But the reason to buy this set is the beautiful prints of BIG DOLL HOUSE and BIG BIRD CAGE and Jack Hill's informative commentaries (did you know that DOLL HOUSE's delicious villain, Barbara Loder, became ill and lapsed into a coma while making the film? She was finally diagnosed as being diabetic and was treated and came out of her coma to finish the film. She looks scary-thin in the film, but she's a wonderful villain--just as she would be a couple years later in FOXY BROWN). Both films are action-packed and have a sense of humor about themselves (especially BIRD CAGE, which is really a parody of DOLL HOUSE). These are not "so bad that they're good" movies...these are actually well-made, action-packed adventures with strong female characters. And they all show just how quickly Pam Grier was able to turn herself into a star with vibrant screen presence. Enjoy!