Another hearty agreement here. Often unfairly dismissed as a shabby expoloitation film, LADY IN A CAGE transcends its freak show roots through artful direction, a wonderfully eccentric score, a sweaty claustraphobic atmosphere (you can almost feel the humidity in the midsection of the film) and bravura performances by Caan and especially brave Olivia, who is unafraid to give a go-for-broke melodramatic performance, which stops just short of caricature. When I finally got around to watching this movie, I was staggered to learn what an unfairly maligned masterpiece it truly is.
In a way, LiaC is the first movie of the 60's (the real, cultural 60's; not the chronological 60's of course). The subtext of this movie is the utter helplessness induced by the Cuban Missile crisis and the Kennedy assassination* . . . . which eventually led to the palpable nihilism that we're all familiar with in the late 60's.
* With a June '64 American release, it's no stretch to suggest that it was produced in the winter of '63-'64.
I've recently been watching WHO KILLED TEDDY BEAR (with Sal Mineo and Elaine Stritch and Juliet Prowse) and it immediately made me think of LADY IN A CAGE right away -- and for many of the same reasons.
Shot in the winter of '64/'65, TEDDY BEAR is a raw, unpolished "B-noir" indie film that takes on subject matter no Hollywood film would (and some considered taboo even today) and has an organic un-slickness about it which gives us a much more accurate sense of the deterioration of the cities during the mid-'60s that the usual tinseltown picture of the same time would never even consider.
The 1960s were like two different decades in one, very intense, exciting in some ways if you were young, but also so lost -- "a slum of a decade" (as Walter Cronkite once observed) and these two pictures, on the angst-riddled cusp of both halves, tap into that in a way unwelcomed at the time.
For much the same reasons they did this to LADY IN A CAGE, the critics savaged TEDDY BEAR, unable to handle the candor of either film and the ugly view of the current zeitgeist they were offering up, dismissing both pictures as "exploitation" and "sleazy" because both movies were showing sleazy people in sleazy situations
(which isn't the same thing) a dismissal made all the more enticing given their obvious low budget flavor.
In that sense, both movies were ahead of their times --- not that they were to be confused with a Hitchcock or Kubrick production. But they were interesting, well-acted, tautly-directed period pictures with lots of layers and something to say.
But Hollywood didn't want to hear it then. And if there hadn't been such A-listers connected to WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF, it would have received a similar drubbing from the reviewers. (And did, from some).
LBJ's mistress on JFK:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WcXeutDmuRA
I just watched Lady In a Cage again! From I remember of Who Killed Teddy Bear it was a better movie if only for its state of the art NYC ambiance, half-early (or pre-) John Lindsay "Fun City", half-Apocalypse Now, already on the road to Midnight Cowboy.
Lady In a Cage is sort of the L.A. version, set, fittingly, in broad daylight, it's effective but works up too much of a lather, tries too hard to shock once the electricity goes off. It should be as batsh!t crazy as the young thugs that invade the lady's home but scenarist Luther Davis was apparently reading Freud when he penned this one, as its ambitions are as a fancy and over-articulated as the lady's poetry.
Still, I enjoyed it for what it was. It failed to take off into the stratosphere, as it lacks the polish of the Robert Aldrich-Bette Davis geriatric horrors. Livvy and most of the cast are fine, though Jeff Corey on a good day is difficult to just look at; and on bad days he's downright painful.
It's a decent time capsule, though, as "plugged into the 60s" as anything from that era, one can see the decade unfolding along with the plot; and the decade did indeed play out like a sleazy strip tease, making Lady In a Cage strangely prophetic: James Caan came to an end that stirred memories of the death of Bobby Kennedy. This is not a comfortable thought to ponder, but there it is, all the same.