Big Doll House, The (1971)

Big Doll House, The (1971)

“You tell me about this escape — I release you from this nightmare.”

A group of female prisoners — Alcott (Roberta Collins), Bodine (Pat Woodell), Marnie (Judy Brown), and Grear (Pam Grier) [whose heroin-addicted girlfriend Harrad (Brooke Mills) is in dire straits] — plot to escape from a prison in the Philippines run by a sadistic warden (Kathryn Loder), and receive support from a pair of fruit vendors (Sid Haig and Jerry Frank).

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Escape
  • Pam Grier Films
  • Prisoners
  • Strong Females

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary posits that this “first of the women-in-prison genre” — “directed by Jack Hill and produced by Jane Schaffer for Roger Corman’s New World Pictures” — is “the best outside of Jonathan Demme’s Caged Heat.” He notes that it “created the formula for later films by mixing R-rated sex and violence… with feminism: women bond together for survival, women are not helpless and passive.” He argues that “Roberta Collins and Pam Grier” — “two future superstars of the sexploitation genre”:

— are “reasons enough to see this film”, given that they “will take only so much humiliation, abuse, and torture”. While this film is competently directed and features spunky performances — including by Barbara Steele-look-alike (Loder):

… it’s not must-see viewing by anyone except fans of the WIP genre.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Some effective direction

Must See?
No, though it’s work a look for its historical status as a trend-setting women-in-prison film.


2 thoughts on “Big Doll House, The (1971)

  1. Peary is wrong saying this was the first of the women in prison subgenre; that “honour” is Jess Franco’s 99 Women (1968) starring Mercedes McCambridge and Herbert Lom.

  2. First viewing. Not must-see.

    Fans of WIP flicks may go for it – even if they also find it largely unsatisfying or lacking in impact. … Though there are, of course, the sequences with the cobra to liven things up.

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