Jackson County Jail / Caged Heat! – Double Feature (Shout! Factory)
The latest double feature from Shout! Factory’s “Roger Corman’s Cult Classics” line of drive-in classics and exploitation items presents a pair of standouts that are both superb examples of their respective genres and early works by major American film artists. They’ve been available on DVD before—heck, Corman released them himself on his New Concorde label in the early days of DVD, sold the rights to his library off to Disney (who released them in 2005), and then reacquired them all over again—but Shout! Factory has been working with Corman to bring out previously unavailable films from his library as well as the best editions of previously available disc and they have really put in the effort to make these worthwhile
Caged Heat, a witty 1974 women-in-prison picture, is the directorial debut of Oscar-winner Jonathan Demme, who satisfies every requirement of the genre (babes behind bars, gratuitous nudity, showers and shock treatment) and punctuates it with an underdog burst of grrrl power rebellion. Demme never tries to pretend its anything more than what it seems—a trashy, energetic exploitation flick for the drive-in circuit—so there are no “messages” to weigh down the fast and furious action, merely a mean sense of satire and creative flourishes around the edges (like warden Barbara Steele’s stiletto heel and fish net stocking prison lecture turned cabaret performance!). Russ Meyer alumnus Erica Gavin and tough cookie Juanita Brown are the brassy babes who make their way out, and then plot their break-in to rescue their cell-block sisters from a corrupt prison doctor. The bluesy score is by Velvet Underground veteran John Cale.