Film, Go To

GO TO: Caged Heat (1974) dir. Jonathan Demme

Screens Saturday, 4/22 @ Somerville Theatre - midnight!


Seeing Jonathan Demme’s Caged Heat for the first time recently really drove home the idea of how a master will come from homemade beginnings. There’s a raw quality to this, one of his earliest films, that’s present throughout and is only enhanced by its gripping performances and sturdy filmmaking. The crime genre is one that’s common for filmmakers to give themselves a blueprint to work within a familiar setup. Except here, the women of Caged Heat aren’t so much having a rise and fall before they enter prison; rather, all of it is focused on the escape and the difference between groupthink from inside and then outside solitary confinement. At once, impulsive decisions to benefit everyone when escaping are made with righteous vengeance, yet the characters completely revert to selfish gain even when escaping from the authorities

There’s a dreamy quality to the film, from the haze in the visual look to the kinetic pace when the revolution picks up momentum without much moral regret. I haven’t seen many Roger Corman pictures, yet the low-budget approach to the film gives lends believability to the idea that Erica Gavin or Crystin Sinclaire can go into a bank after escaping prison, see it’s already been robbed, then still take it over without hesitation. Storming to a path to freedom means just that, agency and independence which were more importantly taken away from these women than being institutionalized. For a movie with so many ideas and experimentation, we believe everything here, despite the liberation being restricted by its runtime. Jonathan Demme would later become known as one of the greatest humanist filmmakers ever, and there’s an interesting conflict in seeing him work with violence and nudity rather than the sequences of characterization. But for a film about good versus evil, its all the more striking.  

As Demme himself described it: “a little sex, a little violence, a little social commentary.” Caged Heat abides by describing a world without atonement or morals. Even more so, Demme doesn’t really make a more refined or updated version of this and begins one of the most varied careers ever. Finally seeing what pre-Melvin and Howard Demme looks like, this is a crowning achievement to what he did outside of the studio system and under Roger Corman’s instructions. It’s something to be admired, and it’s interesting to see Demme before he had the budget and accomplish the grand masterworks (and interesting misfires) he became known for.  

Caged Heat 
dir Jonathan Demme
83 min.

Screens at midnight Saturday, 4/22 @ Somerville Theatre

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