Lady in a Cage is a classic film that few people in the modern generations are aware of. It was one of the few actual films directed by Walter Garuman, who spent the vast majority of his career doing television work. The film was not a major hit, but remains something of an underground spectacle to this day.
The story begins with a wealthy widow who lives with her son in a luxurious home. Her name is Cornelia Hilyard and she has recently injured her hip and had an elevator installed so she wouldn't have to climb the stairs. We learn quickly that her son, Malcolm, is not happy with his living situation and wants to leave permanently. There are slight overtones suggesting that she might be sexually abusing him as well.
After her son leaves for a week on business, she is left alone. Unfortunately for her, the electricity dies as she is going to the second floor in the elevator. The elevator stops midway and she is left stuck inside with only a radio. In the sweltering heat, she quickly begins losing it and frantically rings the elevator alarm to attract attention.
The alarm attracts attention, but unfortunately it is from a drunken man who sneaks in to steal some booze and appliances. He goes and recruits an aging prostitute to help him ransack the place, but they are stopped by a gang of hoodlums who decide that they want all of the property for themselves. The situation proceeds to become quite violent and suspenseful from there, all the while Cornelia is left helpless inside of the elevator while thieves steal from her house and harass her.
The main character, Cornelia, is played by Olivia de Havilland and her son Malcolm is played by William Swan, although he only makes a brief appearance at the beginning. The drunk, George L. Brady Jr., is played by Jeff Corey and the old prostitute, Sade, is played by Ann Sothern. The three hoodlums, Randall, Elaine, and Essie, are played by James Caan, Jennifer Billingsley, and Rafael Campos.
The acting in this film is pretty good, although I found Olivia de Havilland to be very annoying by the end of the film. Jeff Corey does a good job as a drunk, although some scenes are a little over the top. James Caan draws a lot of inspiration from Marlon Brando and even looks just like him in some scenes. This movie was his first and he does a good job of portraying a psychotic criminal.
The plot itself is unique, although I thought it was absurd in some ways. First of all, why doesn't the lady ever just jump out of the elevator? Why are the batteries for the alarm exposed to rain and the elements, which would certainly short them out? And finally, why wouldn't any normal person do anything about an alarm going off for five or ten minutes? Surely they would at least wonder what is going on.
Pretty much all of the film takes place in the house, with a few excursions into a pawn shop and the street. Over the course of the movie, the house transforms from a very prissy and perfect home into a completely ransacked and destroyed shell of a house. The pawn shop that the drunk goes to is pretty sleazy and run by a creepy fellow with an eye patch, which I found interesting.
If you can look past the plot holes and some overacting, this film can be very enjoyable. The ending is quite suspenseful and the slow buildup will have you wondering about what will happen next. You might have trouble finding this in a video store, but online retailers would likely have it.