Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Caged Heat (1974)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Caged Heat (1974)

In director Jonathan Demme's (The Silence of the Lambs (1991)) early trashy, low-budget, B-grade, campy cult women-in-prison flick, and exploitation classic with tongue-in-cheek humor, his first theatrical feature film as a director - for B-movie king producer Roger Corman's New World Pictures. Two other unrelated films were Caged Heat II: Stripped of Freedom (1994), and Caged Heat 3000 (1995). [Note: Jonathan Demme also produced Corman's The Hot Box (1972), another 'women-in-prison' (WIP) film.] See Sex in Films for uncensored version. Demme's 83-minute film is generally considered one of the best of its type - an "innocent females in prison" film, advertised as:

"White Hot Desires Melting Cold Prison Steel!"

Demme would go on in the 1980s-2000s to make some very memorable Oscar-awarded films, such as Melvin and Howard (1980), Swing Shift (1984), the Talking Heads film Stop Making Sense (1984), Something Wild (1986), Married to the Mob (1988), The Silence of the Lambs (1991), Philadelphia (1993), and Beloved (1998) before the turn of the century.

Demme's WIP (women in prison) exploitational classic, with photography by Tak Fujimoto, showcased various attractive and empowered tough women in prison and was designed for the 'drive-in' crowd, with expected exploitative scenes of rebellion and the requisite prison escape. Various punishments in prison included illegal electro-shock experimental, Corrective Physical Therapy (aka CPT) (in other words, lobotomies), nude solitary confinement, exploitative assembly-line group showers, guard molestation of the prisoners, and sadistic torture. Requisite components of many WIP films included nudity, dirty hair-pulling catfights, and predatory lesbianism.

  • the film opened with an exciting drug bust by an undercover cop and other officers; one of the assailants was Jacqueline Wilson (Erica Gavin, Russ Meyer's favorite), accompanied by two other men, who were chased on foot from their residence; one of the men was shot and another hopped a fence, before Jacqueline was arrested on charges of drug trafficking and accessory to a cop murder - one of the men had shot back and lethally wounded an officer in the neck
  • in voice-over, the hand-cuffed convicted prisoner (standing before a black background) was sentenced by an off-screen judge to "no less than 10 nor more than 40 years."
Lavelle's (Cheryl Rainbeaux Smith) Opening Dream Sequence
  • after the opening credits and title screen zoomed into place, the first of the film's three dreams occurred; one of the womens' prison inmates, waifish pretty blonde Lavelle (Cheryl Rainbeaux Smith), while sleeping in her cell, was visited by a "Dream Man" (John Aprea) who kissed her through her jail cell's bars, then fondled her through her clothes (amidst heavy breathing) as she stabbed over her shoulders with a giant butcher knife before awakening
  • some of the main characters were introduced in an outdoor recreation area: blonde Belle Tyson (Roberta Collins) was sharing an off-color sex joke with tall, black and curvy Pandora (Ella Reid), as new inmate arrivals (including Jacqueline) were transported in a van into the Connerville Institute for Women

Dr. Randolph in Processing Center

Three New Inmates
  • a pipe-smoking, perverted and twisted white-coated Dr. Randolph (Warren Miller) was summoned to the Processing Center, where he warned that it was the three inmates' last chance to surrender "concealed" drugs, before 'search and seizure' of any contraband from the stripped females: "Please remove all articles of clothing at this time. And this is your last opportunity to surrender any, ah, concealed narcotics, drugs, or weapons on your person. You'd be surprised at the foreign objects we find hidden inside new arrivals....Listen, I don't enjoy this ritual any more than you do. Now, what we're going to do now is some callisthenics. I'd like you girls to help me"; Dr. Randolph ordered the group to perform calisthenics (deep knee bends) - and then put on plastic gloves and pulled out his speculum for illegal, full-cavity searches
  • at a communal meal in the cafeteria, Jacqueline sat across from two of her fellow female inmates, already introduced in the prison yard, Belle and Pandora; the latter warned Jacqueline about not becoming claustrophic - and ultimately catatonic; a prisoner named Bonnie (Ann Stockdale) appeared to be in a zombie-like state; there were hints by them that patients who were disobedient or too unruly would be taken away to the clinic for calming: ("She doesn't scream and shout anymore")
  • humorously in the next sequence, masturbation was implied before revealing that inmate Pandora was playing dice: "Come on, baby, come on! Hmm, mmm"; a tracking shot down a row of cells showed the inmates rolling dice during game-play, conversing, dressing in a toilet, and reading the Bible
  • an intimidating gang leader was introduced - Maggie Cromwell (Juanita Brown), a mean and tough African-American bully and gang leader, whose first words were: "God damnit! Who copped my smokes?"; she barged into the cell of Pandora and Belle where she accused kleptomaniac Belle of stealing her pack of smokes; after finding a stolen pack under Belle's mattress, she threatened: "If she rips me off just one more time, I'm gonna spill a can of kick-ass all over her butt"
  • that night, Jacqueline experienced an erotic nightmare (the second of the film's 3 dream sequences) - she imagined a bearded man kissing inmates, and a doctor - symbolic of Dr. Randolph, threateningly approaching with an open speculum
  • during the day, the women were trucked to an agricultural area to pick fruit under the watchful eye of armed guards; during the ride, Pandora revealed to Jackie why she had been incarcerated - not for murder but for an assaultive castration of a male: "Cut his balls off instead...Didn't need the mothers anyway"
  • in the evening, the females were entertained by a staged, amateur improv skit-talent show with in-drag inmates (Pandora and Belle) telling ribald and bawdy jokes; it was attended by the film's most notorious character - the stern-faced prison warden
Stern Warden Superintendent McQueen (Barbara Steele)
  • the stern Superintendent McQueen (Barbara Steele, a 'Scream Queen' veteran) was a sadistic, semi-lesbian, repressive, wheelchair-bound, and butch-looking supervisor with an English accent; the perverse warden left the show early due to her disgust with the jokes
  • later that night, the Warden experienced an erotic dream (the 3rd and final dream sequences) of performing for the cheering inmates, in a top hat while lecturing to them:

    Don't you realize that sex is what put you behind bars in the first place? Stealing to dress better for a man.
    Packing the pockets of women using pimps.
    Killing to eliminate a sexual rival.

    Give me contrition! Let's have redemption!
    Repentance! Repentance!
    Of one's debt to society!

  • the next day, the Warden reprimanded Pandora and Belle for their "disgusting" gutter-talk show the previous night: "That show of yours last night was positively disgusting. Given the chance to express yourselves you went straight to the gutter. Even for criminals you're just a particularly poor reflection on womanhood"; Pandora was ordered to spend a few days stripped naked in solitary confinement (without food) for her unacceptable behavior (and for a contraband picture of a naked male found and confiscated from her cell); as they were taken away, McQueen told her assistant Pinter (Tobi Carr Refelson) about her "disturbing" but "oddly gratifying" dream - "Y'know I had the most strangest dream, most disturbing, last night; disturbing - but oddly gratifying"
  • there were three separate female shower segments in this film (one of the staples of WIP and 'girls-behind-bars' films); the first one the longest and most extended, showcasing various attractive and empowered cell-block prisoners
  • while others took showers, Belle took risky trips from the green toilet room through the air-vent passageway system (counting backwards to herself to get back in time) to steal food from the guards' break room and bring the items to her incarcerated friend Pandora in isolation
  • during shower time, Maggie was threatened by Jacqueline's presence and warned her after being pushed: "I'm gonna kick your little pretty teeth so far down your throat you're gonna get a picket fence around your asshole." They started a vicious, hair-pulling cat-fight in the locker room; after being restrained, the two were brought before the warden who warned that further infractions would lead to CPT; Jacqueline was specifically cautioned to "toe the line and avoid trouble like the plague"
  • that evening, Lavelle explained to her cellmate Jackie that she was imprisoned for life for 1st-degree murder while hitchhiking, when her friend was raped and she vengefully stabbed the rapist ("the guy's father was a senator or somethin'")
  • in the prison kitchen, after one of the mean female guards dropped a dead roach into a large pot of soup Maggie was preparing, Maggie wiped the roach onto the guard's shoes and mouthed the words "F--k you" to the guard; when the guard reached for her gun, Maggie assaulted her and a gun shot was diverted into the air; Jackie threw an object at the guard's head and knocked her out; then, Maggie and stole her gun, set the kitchen on fire, and tried to escape; during a deadly shootout, a third inmate was killed, and Maggie's escape attempt was quickly thwarted
After Thwarted Escape Attempt, Dr. Randolph's CPT Punishment for Jacqueline
  • both Maggie and Jacqueline were brought before the Warden who ordered them for CPT - to be forcibly brain-shocked with an electric current; the two were taken to Dr. Randolph's 'Behavioral Correction' facility, where Jacqueline was strapped to a table; she pleaded for mercy ("You can't do this to me!....Don't hurt me anymore") as the doctor gagged her to stifle her awful screams; after initial treatments for both Jacqueline and Maggie, more CPT sessions were scheduled; afterwards, Maggie called the doctor "a god-damn perverted, sadistic maniac" for using an outlawed procedure; she vowed to escape: "They ain't lightin' me up like a f--kin' Christmas tree no more! I'm gettin' outta here if it f--king kills me!
  • during one of her stealthy trips to Pandora's cell, Belle was caught and detained by an elderly kitchen attendant (Dorothy Love); when the matron died of fright in Belle's arms (and lost her set of false teeth), Belle was seized and blamed for the death
  • meanwhile in the fruit orchard, other prisoners overpowered a guard and fled; Maggie was able to hijack the prison van for a successful escape with Jacqueline - bringing together the unlikely pair; the two later stole a cop's car at a gas station and then car-jacked another family's vehicle
  • in the prison, Pandora was released from solitary; in his prison clinic, Dr. Randolph drugged Belle with an injection; and for her complicity in the orchard escape, Lavelle was placed naked into solitary confinement
  • Maggie and Jackie met up with one of Maggie's friends, double-paroled Crazy Alice (Crystin Sinclaire) at a brothel (Academy of Sexual Satisfaction featuring females wrestling with clients on waterbeds); when Alice's client - an under-cover cop - showed his badge and threatened to arrest Alice on charges of soliciting and prostitution, they knocked him out, and she joined with Maggie and Jackie holed up at her sister's place in a trailer park before deciding what to do next
  • the Warden encouraged Dr. Randolph to punish Belle's "capacity for violence," although stressed that she sign a voluntary psycho-surgery release; he forced theimpaired and drugged-up female to sign a voluntary psycho-surgery release form, tricking her by calling it a parole-release form
  • Lavelle was removed from solitary and the suspicious Warden assigned her to work in the clinic as Dr. Randolph's assistant ("Keep your eyes open, and learn"); Lavelle watched through the keyhole as the doctor took Polaroid pictures of his naked and unconscious conquest in the Detention Clinic and then raped her

Lavelle Spying On Dr. Randolph's Exploitation of Belle
Belle Injected and Drugged by Dr. Randolph
  • still on the run elsewhere, the threesome of Maggie, Crazy Alice, and Jacqueline robbed the Los Alamos Currency Exchange business (which was in the process of being robbed by another Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck mask-faced gang!) - they stole the money from the thieves after a shootout, and escaped cleanly when arriving officers followed the two surviving robbers
  • meanwhile inside the prison, Dr. Randolph was making plans to perform a lobotomy on Belle's brain, to make her more docile; Lavelle warned Pandora about the doctor's sadistic surgery
  • in a hideout, the females decided to return to the prison and free their fellow inmates; Crazy Alice pretended to faint by the side of the road, causing the driver of a prison van with new inmates to stop; the inmate threesome confronted the driver who pulled out his gun; Alice shot and killed the driver, and then the two prisoners in the van were allowed to hitch-hike to escape
  • the prison van was hijacked and driven to the facility with prison worker Bernice (Mickey Fox) as their hostage, to help them to gain entry; their objective was to free both Belle and Pandora, and then break back out again
  • in the prison, Lavelle and Pandora watched as Dr. Randolph prepared to perform a psycho-surgical lobotomy on Belle; knife-wielding Pandora interrupted Dr. Randolph's operation on Belle at the same time that both Warden McQueen and Jacqueline (with a shotgun) and Alice (with a gun) entered the operating room; Belle was given an injection to revive her, and Lavelle showed evidence and proof of the doctor's perversions to the Warden - the forged form, and naked Polaroids of Belle - before her mouth was taped
Prison Break-In: McQueen and Dr. Randolph Were Captured and Held at Gunpoint
  • during the inmates' escape attempt, the three prison officials McQueen, Bernice and Dr. Randolph were taken as hostages in the back of the prison van where they rode with Belle, Lavelle, and Pandora, while Crazy Alice was at the wheel and Jacqueline was next to her in the front seat; Maggie was awaiting the group outside the prison's gates with a getaway car; meanwhile, the Warden's assistant Pinter had alerted guards and state troopers
  • there was a major shootout at the institution's entrance, but all five inmates were able to make a safe getaway unscathed in a car with Maggie, while in the van, Dr. Randolph was hit numerous times with stray gunfire and killed, and McQueen was seriously wounded with an abdomen gunshot

Jacqueline (Erica Gavin) - Sentenced From 10-40 years

Belle Tyson (Roberta Collins)

Pandora Williams (Ella Reid)

Jacqueline's Cellmate Lavelle (Cheryl Rainbeaux Smith)

Perverted Prison Dr. Randolph (Warren Miller)

Humorous Audio-Gag: Pandora Playing Dice!

Introduction of Gang Leader Maggie Cromwell (Juanite Brown)

Maggie Threatening Cellmates Pandora and Belle

Jacqueline's Erotic Nightmare - Kissing a Bearded Man Outside Her Cell

Jacqueline's Erotic Nightmare - Attacked by a Doctor Wielding an Open Speculum

The Evening's Skit-Talent Show for the Inmates

McQueen's Dream of Performing For the Inmates

Punishment: Pandora Naked and in Solitary Confinement

Women Lined Up For Showers

Belle Sneaking Off From the Showers to Enter Vent and Steal Food for Locked-Up Pandora

Jacqueline Confronted by Maggie in the Showers and Locker Room Before Cat-Fight

Disciplined by the Warden

Death of Kitchen Matron Blamed on Belle

Maggie's Flight and Escape From Fruit Orchard

Jackie and Maggie Meeting Up in a Brothel with Partner in Crime Crazy Alice/Lynda Gold (Crystin Sinclaire)

Hijacking the Prison Van and Prison Worker Bernice

Shootout - Death of Supt. McQueen in the Back of Prison Van


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