Saturday, July 2, 2011

Fourth of July, 1963

It's a beautiful sunny July 4th, 1963, somewhere in Southern California. The roads are choked with traffic headed towards the mountains, lakes and beaches.

The all-American game of baseball is being played at a nearby stadium...

There's a parade downtown, complete with jet fly-over...

And some folks aren't waiting for it to get dark to start setting off fireworks...

Insulated from all the excitement in her little suburban home is Ms. Cornelia Hilyard (Olivia de Havilland).

Normally she might join her adult son Malcolm for a weekend road-trip, but she injured her hip a few months ago and has become a bit of a homebody. She plans to spend Independence Day puttering around her house, reciting original poetry to herself while admiring her collection of knick-knacks.

She can still get around despite her hip injury, but climbing the stairs is out of the question, so she relies on this personal elevator to get up and down.

But wouldn't you know it--after workmen accidentally disturb the power lines to her house, Ms. Hilyard is left without electricity, finding herself trapped in the very box meant to facilitate her freedom and independence! On July 4th, no less! Oh, the irony!

When the phone rings, she tries to knock the receiver off the cradle with her shoe, with no luck.

YOU try to hit a phone with a shoe from this height!

The elevator is equipped with a battery-powered alarm bell, which she eventually gets around to using.

But with all the holiday excitement outside, the alarm goes unnoticed by the passing traffic.

And who can expect a mere ringing bell to grab anyone's attention, when even the body of this poor dead dog, lying on the side of the road in full view, goes ignored by people hurrying to the beach.

But the alarm finally does get noticed by someone who doesn't have a holiday destination to get to--a drunken hobo. Unfortunately he's more interested in looting the house of its fineries than helping poor Ms. Hilyard.

After the hobo grabs a few items to pawn and flees the scene, Ms. Hilyard, desperate to escape, considers jumping from the mid-air cage. But in her semi-incapacitated condition, that just isn't an option.

As the July heat builds, Ms. Hilyard starts to go a little stir-crazy, and has herself a good ol' freakout, singing loudly to herself and composing free-form poetry about man's inhumanity to man.

Here's a sample of Ms. Hilyard's verse:
"We made us cities and towns,
And thought we had beat the jungle back,
Not knowing we had built the jungle in."
Meh--doesn't even rhyme.

The hobo returns from the pawn shop with the intent to clean the place out, but is followed by a group of even nastier thugs, headed by Randall (a young James Caan).

These guys amuse themselves while ransacking the place, intending to kill both the hobo AND Ms. Hilyard, to eliminate all witnesses.

When she appeals to their basic human decency, Randall snaps back "I am ALL animal!" He's out to rattle a few cages... or at least this one!

Ms. Hilyard ends up defending herself from the murderous creep with an improvised weapon. She never did get to see any fireworks on this Fourth of July. And Randall... well, he didn't get to see much of anything after Ms. Hilyard got through with him...!

This Fourth of the July occurred in the cult classic Lady in a Cage (1964), a sometimes corny but utterly engaging thriller, whose nihilistic theme, that our supposedly modern civilization will quickly devolve into dog-eat-dog anarchy if the opportunity presents itself, is delivered with a bluntness that seems ahead of its time.

The cool animated opening title sequence might remind you of the work of Saul Bass.

They even do something I always assumed was a more recent practice... customize the studio logo to match the theme of the film.

Lady In A Cage is out of print as of this writing, but can still be found on the second-hand market.

1 comment:

pJ said...

I LOVE this movie.