WOMEN IN PRISON MOVIES

The Naked Cage

Written and directed by Paul Nicholas, this 1986 film stars Shari Shattuck as Michelle. She a sweet innocent smalltown girl, who, in the beginning of the film, has just moved back to her parents’ farm, after separating from her husband due to his problems with drugs and alcohol, although she still cares about him and wants to help him get his life back together.

John Terlesky plays Michelle’s husband Willy. We see him pick up a sexy woman named Rita (Christina Whitaker) who was hitchhiking on the road. The two of them stop off at a Diner for lunch, and while Willy’s in the bathroom Rita is confronted by a cop, whom she knocks out, steals his gun and then shoots the cook. When Willy comes out of the bathroom he’s shocked at what he sees, but Rita convinces him to empty out the cash from the Diner’s cash register and then they both rush out. Back at Willy’s place, Rita entices Willy to sniff cocaine with her and then they have sex.

The next day, Rita’s convinced Willy to rob the local bank with her at gunpoint. It’s the bank where Michelle just so happens to work at, and she’s there when it happens. After a dramatic and violent action sequence, the robbery ends with Willy shot dead by the police and Michelle, thanks to a series of unpredictable but plausible turn events, gets accused and arrested for being an accessory to the robbery. The film jumps ahead to where Michelle gets convicted and sentenced to three years in jail.

At that point, well, if you’re a fan of the Women In Prison genre, you pretty much know what to expect. We meet the usual cast of characters. Angel Tompkins is the corrupt warden, with lesbian tendencies. Nick Benedict is “Smiley,” the brutal rapist prison guard. Stacey Shaffer is Amy, a prisoner with a Heart of Gold who is Michelle’s bunkmate.  Lucinda Crosby is Rhonda, the one decent Prison Guard.  Faith Minton is Sheila, the big butch defacto leader of the inmates, at least the White ones. Aude Charles is Brenda, leader of the Black inmates, and of course there’s racial tension in the prison. So at first Michelle is just trying her best to stay out of trouble. But then Rita shows up in the prison and immediately attacks her. At first Michelle is saved by Sheila, but then later Rita faces Sheila in a fight in the yard, and kills her, becoming the new leader of the inmates which puts Michelle in even more danger.

Over the course of the hour and forty minute film, we get shower scenes, brutal fights, stabbings, drug over-doses, all culminating in a prison riot that leaves several characters dead. It’s not exactly ground-breaking, but it’s saved by the earnest performances of the cast, especially leading lady Shari Shattuck, still a relative newbie at this point, but she would go on to have a long and successful career. The Naked Cage is an engaging action-packed drama that should leave fans satisfied. Chacebook rating: FOUR STARS

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