Code Red // 1971 // 92 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Tom Becker // November 18th, 2011
The "different" kind of brotherly love that makes prisoners riot!
I have to admit to being a little let down by Code Red lately. The last couple of releases I've seen -- part of the Maria's B-Movie Mayhem line -- have been pretty ho-hum retreads of films that had already had DVD incarnations, and those quirky little touches that make Code Red Code Red just weren't in evidence. I hadn't exactly given up hope, but I was wondering if maybe my memories of releases like The Black Klansman hadn't made my expectations a little too high.
And then they come along and give me the deliriously sleazy -- yet earnest -- Caged Men (a.k.a. I'm Going to Get You...Elliot Boy), also part of Maria's B-Movie Mayhem, which features the kind of obscure film and fun supplements that have endeared us to the company.
Let the good times roll.
Elliot (Ross Stephanson) is a doofus. First, he doofusly agrees to be the get-away driver for a group of slackjaws who rob a bank. Then, during the get-away, he doofusly falls out of the car, and his newfound friends leave him by the side of the road. In this case, his doofusness is actually a blessing, since the rest of the gang finds themselves going up the river -- literally: Their car goes over an embankment trying to avoid a two-car police roadblock, they all drown, and the money floats.
Elliot flees to the groovy home of his girlfriend, Sherri (Maureen McGill). Well, at least he thinks she's his girlfriend. It seems Sherri, having already ascertained Elliot's doofusability, is only using him to get her hands on the bank-job money; she even has another man with her when Doofus Elliot comes a'callin' (thank goodness for buzzers).
When DE (that's "Doofus Elliot") shows up empty handed, shady Sherri turns him in to cops, and our boy pulls a two-to-five stretch in La Grande Maison (that's "The Big House" in French, my little tip o' the chapeau to the film's Canadian origins).
As a doofus, Elliot must have many things in prison explained to him. Decked out in a virginal white jumpsuit reserved for newbies ("So that's why everyone's calling me fish"), he stands out from the crowd of hardened cons like a Jonas Brother at the Hustler Ball.
Cage Without a Stylist
Doofus Elliot catches the eye of a weasly, British-accented prisoner, Evans (Jeremy Hart). Evans, a lifer with clout, takes a shine to Elliot and gets him a cushy job in the prison library. There, the kindly librarian -- who looks like Miss Gulch from The Wizard of Oz -- explains things to Elliot that most 12-year-olds already know: prison is filled with bad people, and buggery appears on the menu in both column A and column B. The librarian also offers us some convoluted pseudo-psycho-sexual analysis on how Evans will be particularly predatory toward Elliot because of the fish's college education (money not well spent, by the way). Then, to the surprise of absolutely no one other than Fish Doofus, the librarian makes a big reveal: "she" is actually a he! Yes, Elliot is stunned to discover that the woman in heavy make up with a deep voice and prominent Adam's apple is actually a guy just like himself, though from El Stupido's shocked reaction, you'd think the librarian was actually revealing himself to be Luke Skywalker's father.
From there, it's a long, long, long walk to the inevitable butt banditry that likely brought you to this title in the first place. Will Elliot figure out how to navigate the tricky waters of the pen (or walk and chew gum at the same time), or will the whole enterprise turn into another episode of Sex and the Cellblock?
You Must Have Seen This Coming
Let's get this out of the way: Whichever title you're watching this under -- Caged Men, Caged Men and One Woman, or I'm Going to Get You...Elliot Boy -- this is an awful movie. The acting is inept. The direction is inept. The production values are inept. The script? Inept.
It all comes across like a well-meaning but mundane TV drama from the '60s, only with sodomy. Elliot might as well be locked up in the Quinn Martin Penitentiary for boring guys. The idea that this is going to be some gay exposé about prison life is bandied about -- Elliot is shocked to see prison queens in make up (as are we -- where did they get all the Maybelline?), and guy-on-guy comfort occasionally comes up in conversation -- but for the most part, the film keeps a safe distance from any kind of controversy about prison sex (greetings, heterosexual moviegoer!). The only real sexual predator is the wormy and physically unimposing Evans, whose attempted seduction of the dim Elliot is reminiscent of Pepe Le Pew's attempted seduction of a spray-painted cat. There's no real power structure or sexual hierarchy in this joint, no danger-lurking-in-every-shower-stall for our young moron, and his lurid and inevitable assault seems more like an aberration than a fact of prison life, which sadly, is so often the case.
Since our hero is such a dunce, it's hard to muster a lot of sympathy for him; Opie Taylor was more streetwise than this clown, and all he knew about jail was that Otis the Drunk used it as a home away from home.
Mainly, Caged Men is just a prison soap opera without the high-drama. While we await Elliot's inevitable take down, we're treated to a few quirky touches, like a cigar-smoking, pot-growing dwarf prisoner and a music-loving giant prisoner (played by professional wrestling legend Abdullah the Butcher). An inane -- and inexplicably important -- subplot involves Elliot's duplicitous girlfriend, who believes he kept the money from the heist and hid it away, because people who fall out of moving vehicles are always clutching sacks of money when they hit the pavement. In a bizarre and welcome bit of sensationalism, the warden orders Elliot's cellmate to be beaten with a rubber hose for punching out an aggressive queen.
The Hose Knows
The whole thing ends as stupidly as it started, with Elliot an even bigger doofus than he was in the beginning -- as if that's possible.
Code Red turnkeys this one with extra care. The transfer is very decent; there's some print damage and unsteadiness, but I'm sure these were part of the original print for this low-budget film. Audio is an acceptable Dolby Mono track.
Code Red offers up as good a slate of supplements as you'll find for a film of this, uh, pedigree. We get two commentary tracks. The first is with Alonzo Duralde (author of 101 Must-See Movies for Gay Men) and Dave White, both of whom do the Linoleum Knife podcast. This is basically a riff track, and both Duralde and White are very, very funny, making this track a great way to watch (or re-watch) the film. The second commentary is with Nathaniel Thompson and filmmaker David DeCoteau. This too is a pretty funny track, though DeCoteau and Thompson also talk about the prison-film genre, as well as filmmaking in Canada and another gay-themed prison film that was released around the same time this one was: Fortune and Men's Eyes. Since there's little known about the film -- it really is awfully obscure -- there's understandably not a lot of background to be had in these.
As an extra-special bonus, we get the Unmatted Shower Sequence, which is basically a shower scene from the film in which Stephanson's dong appears on screen, rather than being cut off by the framing.
We're Going to See Your Penis, Elliot Boy...in the supplements.
Since this film is part of Maria Kanellis' Maria's B-Movie Mayhem line, we also get intros and outros with Kanellis, as well as her music video, a fixture on these discs. There's also a trailer for Caged Men, as well as the usual line-up of Code Red trailers.
Maria's B-Movie Mayhem: Caged Men offers a dreadful movie with cool supplements -- the hallmarks of a fine Code Red package.
The film is guilty, and I'm not even going to talk about what awaits on "the inside." Code Red is free to go and dig up more obscure abominations.
Now I need a shower...in solitary.
Review content copyright © 2011 Tom Becker; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Code Red
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 92 Minutes
Release Year: 1971
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Unmatted Shower Sequence
* Music Video
* Linoleum Knife Podcast
* David DeCoteau's Site