I’m about to begin rolling out a new series of posts in which I sit down with ten of the most famous films I’ve never seen before—but first I had to say a few words about a fantastic new release from the folks over at Code Red. They’re responsible for having put out three of the films I screened earlier this fall as part of my education in psychotronia; now they’ve unearthed a gem of a prison exploitation film called Caged Men, a.k.a. Caged Men Plus One Woman, a.k.a. I’m Gonna Get You, Elliott Boy… (dir. Paul J. Forsyth, 1971). It’s part of their new “Maria’s B-Movie Mayhem” line, in which WWE babe Maria Kanellis provides an intro and outro to the feature film. She’s kind of like a modern-day Rhonda Shear, but (with all due respect to Ms. Kanellis) she doesn’t have that slightly crazed charm that made Shear’s gig at USA Up All Night so funny, nor do her sequences have the same zany, sleazy, late-night TV appeal. But such, alas, is the experience of watching films like this on DVD instead of catching them on cable at 2 a.m. (A movie like Caged Men would likely never have aired on USA, anyway—at least not with its nude scenes intact. So there’s that.)
Caged Men has been, erm, mounted by Code Red as a forgotten gay exploitation treasure; it sports two commentary tracks, one with gay critics (and real-life husbands) Alonso Duralde and Dave White that’s great fun, a second that’s a little less spirited, featuring gay Canadian filmmaker David DeCoteau (he’s the man behind Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-o-Rama, as well as a number of hardcore titles and a homoerotic horror franchise called The Brotherhood). The film itself is a hoot, a male fantasy/nightmare in which a clean-cut college boy is involved in a botched bank robbery and gets thrown in what Duralde and White call “gay prison.” There, he finds himself surrounded by a veritable rogue’s gallery of queers, ranging from straight-acting but predatory guards and the warden’s sleazy lackey (see above) to a pair of queeny inmates (bottom) and, most bizarre of all, an androgynous librarian named Josie (pictured below) who tries to warn our hero about “sexual perverts” and who wears some sort of pleated cape made out of what looks like car upholstery over his prison jumpsuit to hide the fact that he’s actually an inmate.
Throw in an appearance by wrestler Abdullah the Butcher, a cigar-chomping dwarf who harvests marijuana, some sadomasochism, and the requisite shower scene, and you have a decent gay version of a women-in-prison flick. It doesn’t have the lush, orientalist headiness of Midnight Express, to which it invites comparison; its low-budget pleasures are cheaper and in some ways more fun. As Duralde and White suggest, it’s likely that this film was marketed to closet cases who could pretend they were getting off on the T&A shots of its lone female character. Highly recommended.