Color, 1971, 97m.
Directed by Ed Forsyth
Starring Ross Stephanson, Maureen McGill, Jeremy Hart, Edward Blessington, Don McQuarrie
Code Red (DVD) (US R0 NTSC) / WS (1.78:1) (16:9)
The boom in Canadian tax shelter movies in the 1970s produced cinematic offerings of virtually every stripe, and of course, producers were quick to exploit a lot of oddball commercial ideas. One of the least likely of these was the rise in graphic prison dramas inspired by the stage success of Fortune and Men's Eyes, a Canadian film about a guy who's taken away from his girlfriend and thrown in the slammer with a bunch of colorful characters. That formula gets repeated here with a lot of additional trashy twists in Caged Men, originally released under the title I'm Going to Get You... Elliot Boy.
This time the incarcerated fresh meat is Elliot (Stephanson), a fresh-out-of-college pup whose girlfriend Sherri (McGill) double crosses him after he serves as the getaway driver for a bank robbery gone bad (with everyone else flying off the road into the river). Sherri and her guy on the side conspire to take Elliot's share of the cash and send him off to do time for two years, where he has his eyes seriously opened to the nature of life behind bars: dope-peddling midgets, rapists, drag queen librarians, and Canadian wrestler Abdullah the Butcher, just to name a few.
Though pretty artless by any measuring stick, Caged Men has a weirdly fascinating vibe in that early '70s way that combines sincere drama with casual surrealism and shock value. Almost no one involved went on to any future screen credits, though director Ed Forsythe (making his first official appearance behind the camera here) did go on to a handful of additional films like the Crown International drive-in favorite Superchick, the junky shocker Inferno in Paradise, and that T&A '80s VHS perennial, Chesty Anderson U.S. Navy. Here he switches gears in the storyline so violently you'll occasionally wonder if it's an attempt to be artsy, though more likely it's just inexperienced storytelling. However, this approach can certainly pay off even accidentally, as seen in the wild and weird final ten minutes. Even when you have no idea what you're watching, this is certainly one weird, compelling little puppy.
Given the extreme obscurity of this film, it's not surprising that none of the cast or crew were on hand to participate in any supplements. You do get a shot at piecing it all together though with a pair of commentaries, the first featuring Alonzo Duralde and David White that's basically an MST3000-style take on the film treating it along the same lines as an '80s women-in-prison movie. Next up is one with yours truly and director David De Coteau, a Canadian with more than a little experience in gender-bending exploitation films; obviously I can't really evaluate it, but it was fun to record and runs through the state of Candian films at the time as well as a history of significant '60s and '70s gaysploitation films and watershed titles in censorship relaxation. Also included is an open matte version of the shower scene (which pushes this from almost TV-levels of nudity to a very strong R rating), optional wraparound segments with host Maria Kanellis (who ribs the film while dressed as one of its more colorful inmates), the familiar original theatrical trailer seen previously on tons of other Code Red releases (under the Elliot Boy title), and bonus trailers for titles like Stanley, Love Me Deadly, The Last Chase, Schoolgirls in Chains, and Scream (how's that for diversity?).