The Big Doll House (1971)

The Big Doll House was followed-up by The Big Bird Cage a year later. The two films do not follow on from each other; but are very similar in style and content. While this film is not quite as great as the later one; it’s still an excellent women in prison flick. The film was shot in the Philippines and set in some backwater country; but we don’t get the same great outdoor shots that we got in the later film, and most of this film takes place in the classic, dingy, prison setting. That, however, is not a problem; as a constant stream of sleaze and action will keep most viewers from worrying about where it’s taking place. Naturally, the film takes place in a prison where most of the prisoners have little chance of release. A new girl enters the prison and is put in with a motley crew of female prisoners. It’s not long before the conditions inside the jail force the girls into planning an escape; but not before various rivalries amongst themselves are sorted out.

This film is just great fun to watch, and that’s what makes it so successful. The script is rather ridiculous; but there’s plenty of laughs to be had with it too so it doesn’t matter. The biggest names in the cast belong to Sid Haig and Pam Grier; although neither one of them is the star. As would be the case with the later film, Sid Haig provides the most memorable role; this time as a pervy bloke that goes round delivers various goodies to the female prisoners. Most of the rest of the cast are nice to look at, as is standard for films like this. The Big Doll House is a rather lighter affair than the women in prison films by the likes of Jess Franco et al; but it’s all the better for it. There’s plenty of action to keep the pulses racing, including various cat fights, arguments and gun fights. There’s also a series of rather trippy torture scenes, which seem weirdly out of place in the film. The Big Doll House boils down to an explosive ending and overall I wouldn’t hesitate to name this as one of the all time best women in prison films (although The Big Bird Cage is slightly better).