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The Big Doll House

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Jack Hill
Produced by Jane Schaffer
Written by Don Spencer
Starring Judith M. Brown
Roberta Collins
Pam Grier
Music by Hall Daniels
Cinematography Fred Conde
Editing by Cliff Fenneman
Distributed by New World Pictures
Release date(s) 1971
Running time 95 min
Country United States
Philippines
Language English
Followed by The Big Bird Cage

The Big Doll House is a 1971 women in prison film starring Pam Grier, Judy Brown, Roberta Collins, Brooke Mills, and Pat Woodell. The film follows six female inmates throughout daily life in a gritty, unidentified supra-tropical prison. Later the same year the film Women in Cages featured a similar story and setting, much the same cast, and was shot in the same abandoned prison buildings. A non-sequel follow-up, titled The Big Bird Cage, was released in 1972.

Contents

Plot synopsis

The film opens when Collier (Brown) enters a prison for killing her husband. She is introduced to the pulchritudinous companions of her cell, in for crimes ranging from political insurgency to heroin addiction. The women proceed to trade tiffs between one another, which leads to their torture by sadistic guard Lucian (Kathryn Loder) which is viewed by an impassive and mysterious cloaked figure.

Alcott and Bodine (Collins and Woodell) to plan an escape. Cellmates Collier and Ferina (Gina Stuart) agree to go along. Assisting in the plan is their other cellmate Grear (Pam Grier), though there are doubts Grear's heroin addict girlfriend Harrad (Brooke Mills) will be equipped to escape. Ferina, Alcott and Bodine break from a solitary confinement sauna of sorts and take their revenge on Lucian. The escapees wield guns, attitude, and a vacillating feminist/submissive sexuality to free themselves. During their escape they round up various personel from the prison as hostages, taking prison warden Miss Dietrich (Christiane Schmidtmer), prison doctor Dr Phillips (Jack Davis), two local men regularly allowed access to the prison to cell market produce, Harry (Sid Haig) and Fred (Jerry Franks), captive as they escape.

Further information

This was the second film made by B movie giant Roger Corman for his company New World Pictures. It was shot in the Philippines for budgetary reasons, allowing for what Corman calls a 'bigger feeling'. The tag line "Their bodies were caged, but not their desires. They would do anything for a man. Or to him." encapsulates the rather contradictory air expressed by the inmates as they yearn for freedom of multiple kinds; sexual, political, and perhaps ideological — while simultaneously acting as agent provocateur. As a drive in film of the first order, it retains an energetic over an intellectual bent, and thus avoids serious consideration of or accuracy in portraying the actual situation of female American prisoners, instead fulfilling the genre characteristics of Hollywood's women in prison films. Director Jack Hill later made Coffy, a blaxploitation film with Grier which is based on personal vendetta. The Big Doll House grossed $10,000,000 in theaters.

Cast

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