Pam Grier’s next two films, The Big House/Women in Cages would acquaint her with a favorite of 1970s exploitation films, WIP (Women in Prison). They would serve as the first productions for Roger Corman’s new production company New World Pictures. As well, both films would see Ms. Grier’s roles expanding, as well as her clothing progressively disappearing.
Both films were to represent the changing face of the B-movie in the United States. Previous the 1948 Supreme decision to relieve film studios of their ability to own theaters, the studios would make smaller budgeted films that they shot quickly sent to their theaters as content filler. These were B-movies in their purest form.
With theaters in private hands, such content wasn’t necessary. Thus, a new figure, the independent film producer, in our case it was Roger Corman. , was born (To be fair, indie producers first to prominence in the late 1920s when infamous millionaire Howard Hughes and newspaper William Randolph Hearst used some of their massive wealth to produce pictures.
Roger Cormalisman wasn’t a rich man but he was a genius when it came to the motion picture business. Though some might think that a considerable gulf exists between old Hollywood B-films and new Hollywood B-movies, it is not that wide. Producers, like Corman, used sensationalism as selling points for their films. They over exaggerated in fact. This was the only weapon available, resources were limited for the indie producer.
Ms. Grier was great at playing the stock character of tough, resilient broad and she shows such qualities in passing flashes, let down by pedestrian direction in both films. The star quality is obvious despite the quality of the direction.
In both films, Ms. Grier plays stock characters – the girlfriend of the revolutionary in The Big Doll House and the remorseless lesbian senior guard, though still a prisoner in Women in Chains.
Neither stretch the actress but both allow Ms. Grier to rise above senseless plots.