Movie Diary 8/1/2021

Lady in a Cage (Walter Grauman, 1964). One from the Terrorize-the-Faded-Movie-Star genre, this time Olivia de Havilland stuck in her home elevator when her power goes out. James Caan leads the group of punks who come into her mansion, pushing aside the unlikely thieving duo of homeless man Jeff Corey and opportunistic floozy Ann Sothern. De Havilland’s character is a Freudian nightmare, a controlling rich woman (apparently a poet? There are many weird stray touches) whose 30-year-old son (William Swan) is contemplating suicide because of being dominated by her. The actor’s presence and performance read as super-gay, and the movie is rather naughty about pointing this out – Caan’s animalistic intruder sizes this up strictly from the tone of the son’s farewell note. Rafael Campos (who briefly married Dinah Washington) and Jennifer Billingsley are Caan’s cohorts; they make his busy Brando-isms look restrained by comparison. The movie seems simpatico with screenwriter Luther Davis’s lines for de Havilland about Caan’s group being rotten products of the welfare state (“offal,” she calls him); or, at least, it doesn’t do much to dispute that. The lurid approach (there are some really grisly moments) gives off a distinct pre-Manson Family vibe. Good freeze-frame opening credits, hipper in style than the rest of the film. Lee Garmes shot it, in amazingly over-lit fashion for the onetime cinematographer of Morocco and Scarface.