“You’re not in my daddy’s book. My daddy doesn’t know about you, Mafu. That makes you a very rare breed.”
An astronomer (Lee Grant) cares for her disturbed younger sister (Carole Kane), who is obsessed with drawing and killing primates she keeps in a cage at home.
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Carol Kane Films
- Incest and Incestuous Undertones
- Lee Grant Films
- Mental Illness
- Obsessive Love
- Play Adaptations
Chances are you’ve never seen anything quite like The Mafu Cage, a bizarrely memorable horror flick based on themes of mental instability, sororal devotion, incestuous behavior, and obsessive love. Director Karen Arthur never opts for cheap thrills, instead choosing to imbue her film with heavy doses of atmosphere — in the sets (including Cissy’s jungle-like living space and the almost minimalist white Mafu cage), the soundtrack (full of pulsating African tribal rhythms), and Cissy’s increasingly far-out costumes and makeup. Carol Kane is nothing less than brilliant in the lead role as Cissy: she shifts at a moment’s notice from seductive to contrite to leering, yet we never doubt the veracity of her impulses. Equally impressive are Lee Grant and James Olson as the primary targets of Cissy’s unpredictable behavior. Although we want to shake Grant for not placing her sister in a mental asylum years earlier, we can’t help admiring her loyalty and love for her disturbed sister; and Olson does a fine job as the innocent visitor who unknowingly walks into a web of insanity, only to pay dearly for it. My one complaint about the film is that we never learn what or who a “mafu” is; this minor quibble aside, however, I’ll admit I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this strange little Sleeper, which is nonetheless not for all tastes.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Carole Kane’s brilliantly deranged performance as Cissy
- Lee Grant as Cissy’s loyal older sister
- James Olson as Grant’s colleague and would-be love interest
- Countless eerily memorable moments
- The pulsating tribal soundtrack
No, but it’s recommended. I can easily see this film becoming a cult flick once it’s rediscovered.