Lady In A Cage

The success of Psycho opened the doors for Lady in a Cage, a low-budget chiller set in an anonymous city over a July 4th weekend. Cornelia Hilyard's (Olivia De Haviland) son Malcolm (played by William Swan) is leaving for the holidays. We get to see a close up of a note he's leaving for his mother suggesting he may be close to killing himself. Cornelia is disabled by a hip injury, hence they've installed an elevator to transport her in-between the ground floor of her house and the top floor. Malcolm's departure kicks off a series of coincidences which cause the power in the house to go out while Cornelia is in the elevator. She is trapped - she rings the external emergency alarms but there is no one to listen. The house is on a main thoroughfare and everyone is busy trying to get out of town. Finally, a vagrant (Jeff Corey) finds his way inside but he is not there to help. His looting and subsequent attempts to pawn off his findings attract the attention of a couple of local hoodlums (James Caan in an early major role) who then find their way to the house. Cornelia must find a way to save herself while still pinned between floors.

There are a surprising number of themes at work in Lady In A Cage: the ease with which order descends into chaos, barbarians at the gate, the brutally impersonal nature of urban life, youthful rebellion and the Oedipus Complex, to name a few. Helmed by veteran TV director Walter Graumann, the film is rarely less than believable, once you accept the Rube Goldberg-like nature of the premise. Unlike Psycho whose impact has diminished by virtue of over-exposure, Lady in A Cage is a buried nugget which hasn't lost its power to thrill and shock.

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- August 14, 2005 8:39 PM // Film , Review