Jump to content

 
Search In
  • More options...
Find results that contain...
Find results in...
Dr. Rich Edwards

Daily Dose of Darkness #19: Behind Bars (Opening Scene of Caged)

Recommended Posts

 The credits were actually distracting;I would have rather seen them presented differently.

 

I agree. I thought the only benefit to doing them that way was that it provided another visual layer that trapped the women in that space.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I agree with those who said the opening credits interfere with the view from inside the van.  I thought they almost obliterated it!  I know nothing about this film, but the way Eleanor Parker is lit when the van door opens, the look of sheer terror on her face, and the way she's dressed (yes, saddle shoes and all) suggest she is a real babe in the woods in this environment.  My initial thought is that she's been framed in some way and of course is innocent, and truly can't fathom how she's going to survive in a women's prison.  I loved it when the women all turned around at the same time for one last look at freedom, especially since I recognized Ellen Corby and the great Agnes Moorhead.  The bleak outlook in the first two minutes of the film makes it very "noirish" for me, and I look forward to seeing the entire film.

  • Like 4

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It seems that this opening sequence suggests a theme from the get-go that will be pertinent to the entire film.

 

Being "caged" from the outside world is most likely the central theme of the film, hence the title. Between the opening taking place in a car, caged from the outside, the women entering the prison, caged from the entrance, and the women looking out past the closed gate, caged from the real world, it seems that the thought of not being exposed to the real world and society is the central part of the film itself.

 

Judging from the names in the credits and the characters appearing in the first two minutes, it looks like this is an all women's cast, save maybe some male prison guards or drivers who don't receive screen credit.  With that in mind, it intrigues me to see what the structure of the "noir" picture does: with no "tough guy," or PI of the like, I wonder if the construction of the noir does justice to the genre?

 

Interested to see!

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The opening scene is claustrophobic, because it's not only dark, but the bars give the viewer a feeling of being imprisoned. The barred window is also very small, surrounded by darkness to the point of almost dwarfing or overwhelming the small window with the dark.

 

There is also realism in the scene, including the sound effects (the traffic, the sirens, etc.) and the women huddling together, taking one last look (which the audience sees from their POV) before filing into the women's prison. The prison itself is daunting to look at -- all brick and stone -- like an ancient fortress in which the women are fated to be held captive.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The opening of "Caged" transports the viewer inside of the prison van along with the other occupants. Our limited point of view (POV) is through a tiny barred window in the front. We all take a last view of the outside world. The alarming sound of the siren, brakes and gears add to the menacing claustrophobic feeling in that van. As the doors rudely open, a light is set upon one face.Fear, shock and loneliness are so etched on Eleanor Parker's face that the viewer is compelled to empathize with her.These are the themes of film noir that engage me. When the guard barks, "pile out you tramps, it's the end of the line", you know you are entering the gritty world of Warner Brothers' noir crime movies. They were also known for their social conscience. It was fascinating to observe how the female prisoners were introduced to the viewers. Some were well dressed (with fake furs), others looked old, haggard and others were possible repeat offenders. In general, they looked like ordinary women. No one appeared dangerous or violent.Their demeanor, though showed that they were well aware of their fate and loss of freedom.

      It is evident from this scene that this film will depict a raw, realistic view of prison life for women in the 1950's. The women's life will be in the hands of the violent (yes violent , he yanked at them and called them tramps) prison authority. They will not be respected and they all have to face a grim reality.....no happy endings.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The opening scene is consistent with the Warner Brothers house style in that it is urban, tough talking, shot at night, all dark and shadows except the bright shot of the name of the institution-- "Woman's State Prison".  The viewers feel caged because they view the scene from inside the police van (a cage with a small window with wire over it). The rough handling of Eleanor Parker by the police officer, the tough guy language "out you tramps, end of the line" all contribute to a noir film that promises a hard boiled, criminal plot and fast action. The close ups of the faces of the women show uncertainty and anxiety. The one-last-look-back before they enter the prison tells it all: a future of danger and fear and hopelessness which eaisly carries over to the viewers. 

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The opening scene was shot for the big screen.  My laptop monitor is only thirteen inches, and it took me until the end of the credits before I could figure out what the patch of hatched light (huge theme in noir film) was.  No musical score and sound effects goes against the typical Hollywood moving, unsettling the audience while setting the tone for a bleak, desperate movie.

 

When the door opens to reveal a woman, its tough guy talk that the audience first hears.  “Pile out you tramps.  It’s the end of the line.”  That line sets the movie up to be an existential film noir.  The look on her face says she’s cornered with no way out, as well as the guard’s line.

 

The close up on her face shows us all we need to know about her:  frightened in unfamiliar territory; so frightened she does nothing.  She understands that she has left the rules of society behind to go to a place where she doesn’t know the rules and, perhaps, there are no rules.

 

Side Note:  Warner Brothers has a grit and realism to their films, which worked great for Christopher Nolan’s Batman series, but not so much for Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel.

 

Second Side Note:  I find it terribly interesting that the movies featured in this week’s Daily Dose precede in date Jack Kerouac’s On The Road (1957).

 

Third Side Note:  It was co-written by a woman, Virginia Kellogg!

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Stylistically, the staging of the opening shots in Caged reinforce the sense of imprisonment that awaits Eleanor Parker. The dark confines of the paddy wagon anticipate what is to come in the caged environment of the women's prison. By placing the camera inside the car looking out, the viewer is caged as much as the inmates. The sense of claustrophobia and fear of the unknown future behind bars are accomplished through the visuals. This film will pick up several noir themes, including the sense that people are subjected to random perils whether they are guilty or not or remorseful or not.

 

I saw this film as a teenager and it's a personal favorite. I admit, though, that it is sort of hard to look at this film with an unjaundiced eye, given that Caged has become a camp classic. Along with other women in prison films, it serves as the basis for the camp parody Women Behind Bars. I have, unfortunately, the same problem with Mildred Pierce. Can anyone see that film without thinking of Carol Burnette or Mommie Dearest? Fortunately, the fairly recent TV miniseries with Kate Winslet enabled me to see a fuller, less campy film version of Cain's novel.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Of the last three daily doses, this is the most disturbing for me. What disturbed me most was hearing the officer growl "pile out you tramps." YOU tramps. In the eyes of the law, these women are treated subhuman. The officer even manhandles the film's protagonist. Considering that most films (in general) during the 1950s were more of a social commentary of its time, this film noir is probably another example of that; how women are treated when they're institutionalized. Perhaps a criticism of the legal system and authorities.

 

As the film title suggests, we, as the viewing audience, are also caged with these women. Our only source of light is a small window with a grid-like covering. As we have our first glance outdoors, each image contains bars; barred windows, barred gate looking out toward civilization. It is a constant reminder that in this film, there is no freedom; neither for the characters nor the viewing audience.

 

As for the characteristics of film noir, there is always the theme of isolation. These women are certainly isolated and castigated. 

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

1.)    Like the last  two Daily Doses ( opening from The Hitch Hiker and Kiss Me Deadly) this opening scene stresses constriction and claustrophobia.  The scene is fitting for a movie about a women's prison entitled because starting right from the first scene,  these women are already "caged" inside the prison van before they even enter the prison building.  The design of the scene works to further enhance and support this "imprisoned" feeling.  We cannot see any details in the back of the van while it is driving to the prison...essentially our vision is exactly as the same as the women inmates...black, bleak, hopless, without detail. We only see the world outside as they do...through a tiny front window covered with mesh. When the women are let out on the prison grounds,  they take one last look at the outside world .  The shot of the outside world appears normal...bright sun, traffic, noise, the hustle and bustle of daily city life with the exception of the gate running horizontally across the scene. The gate serves as another tool to create tension, a feeling of unease and entrapment.

 

2.)  The opening is indicative of the gritty social realism stories associated with Warner Bros.  The scene of the woman being pulled out by the guard reminds one of I Was A Fugitive From A Chain Gang.  The WB style is well used for this story as this is a noir universe where the prison takes the place of the nightscape associated with other studios noirs.

 

3.)  The substance of noir is suitable for a movie about a women's prison because the many of the major qualities of film noir involved bleakness, hopelessness, malaise, dread, fear.  All of these qualities come into major play in a prison drama.  Noir is associated with isolation, imprisonment, doubt, guilt, and coming to terms with the emptiness of uselessness  of ones existence.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This is a great opening for a film about a women's prison. Even from the very start, when we see the title Caged, we start feeling caged. It keeps us caged, just like the women because it starts with our view in the truck, looking out the caged window. Throughout the scene, we're inside with the women, looking out of the bars of the prison to the free world. During this scene, we're never outside looking in, we're only inside looking out.

 

We can connect with Eleanor Parker's character in this scene, because she looks so frightened and trapped just like we would feel in her situation. We can also connect with her because she looks so innocent, with her saddle shoes and deer in the headlight look on her face.

 

I feel it's a little shocking to hear the officer/warden call the women tramps so nonchalantly. Warner Bros can definitely play that off successfully, due to their urban and gritty style. I'm not sure MGM would have done that so successfully at the time, due to the type of movies they usually produced.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

In today's opening shot from "Caged" we are once again traveling down a road, but this time our view is restricted to a very small window through wire mesh. The sound of a siren means we could be in an ambulance, but the title of the film makes it more likely we're in a police wagon.

 

The interior is dark, with just a few Indistinct shadows moving around. Then the vehicle stop, the door is opened and we see we've been sharing this space with several women, the most prominent of whom is fearful (not unlike Christina).

 

Once again we seem to be thrown right into the middle of a story, where bad things have clearly already happened, and it looks like things will get worse before they get better.

 

The most interesting thing here: a cast list of eleven and not a man among them. And one of the screenwriters is female.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

All three of the Daily Doses this week introduced us to films with opening scenes that are disturbing and confusing. Again with "Caged" we don't know where we are. The opening credits fill the screen and slowly we can make out something behind them. Then we hear a police siren. A small square pops up in the middle, but most of the screen is still in darkness. I'm sure audiences that originally saw this on a big screen would have seen much more of what is happening in that small square than we can on a computer, but I think the effect is relatively the same. Watching on the big screen they would have seen more through what we learn is a car windshield, but they would have had much more blackness as well, adding to a feeling of confinement. Watching on the smaller screen, we can't quite make out what's happening through that small square right away and that adds to the confusion as well as feeling we are confined.

 

And that brings us to why the opening is appropriate for a film about women in prison as well as making the viewer feel as caged as the characters. There is an oppressive blackness on most of the screen and a small hole that gives us confusing glimpses of the outside world while making us feel compressed. Both work in their own way to give off a feeling of being trapped or crushed, it doesn't feel like there's enough air to breathe.

 

When the car stops and a back door opens to shine a light on the face of a scared young woman, it's a bit of a shock to the viewer. We easily pick up on her emotion. We can see hands of other people around her, but the bodies are in darkness. Again it feels very confined. The cruelty of the man who says "Pile out you tramps, it's the end of the line" gives off an immediate feeling of dread and hopelessness. We don't know why these women have been brought to the prison - clearly they've done something wrong - but we pity them. It feels like they are being stripped of their dignity with the brutality of those words. When the women turn for their last glimpse of the city beyond the prison gates, you get the feeling they are cut off from the world and any kindness and hope it may have held.

 

The bleakness of the film noir style, especially the heavy shadows, adds significantly to the opening scene. If the director added more lighting so we could see all the women, as well as what was outside the car, then both the confusion and feelings of being confined or trapped are gone. It would feel more like a normal ride - even if it is to prison - without the dread we're feeling. It's a very unsettling opening.

 

 

@toniruberto

 

 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I agree. I thought the only benefit to doing them that way was that it provided another visual layer that trapped the women in that space.

 

I agree. I thought the only benefit to doing them that way was that it provided another visual layer that trapped the women in that space.

Yes, I agree too. I think having the opening credits so prominent and obscuring the background was meant to make it difficult to see what was happening, adding to the confusion and feeling of being trapped.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I definitely agree with what everyone has posted about the claustrophobic nature of the opening.

 

I do like that the women who get out of the van just look like . . . .women. They aren't speaking like overly tough gansters' molls, and their clothing is what you might see on anyone walking around the city streets.

 

The way that the officer speaks to the main character, and the way that he manhandles her, shows the lack of control that she has over her life at this point. It makes me wonder how much control she had before she was put in prison. While noir loves the idea of the femme fatale pulling the doomed male protagonist into a world of sin, in reality there are a lot of women in prison because their male partners involved them (sometimes without their knowledge) in criminal acts--women who are convicted for possessing weapons or drugs that weren't theirs in the first place.

 

On a random sidenote: Agnes Moorehead!!!! My main association with her is the Twilight Znoe episode "The Invaders", so the idea of her talking is blowing my mind right now.

Good point about the women's clothing and how ordinary they are; plus the question about how much control she had over her life before she went to prison.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

-- How the opening is appropriate for a film about females at a women's state prison/How the design of this scene makes the audience as "caged" as these characters:

 

Like in The Hitchhiker, the position of the camera inside the vehicle emphasizes the confined, cramped space from which there is no escape. The effect is even stronger here, because the only window to the outside is barred, and more significantly still, the window is very small—taking up only a tiny portion of the screen. The feeling of confinement is appropriate not only because the women in the police vehicle are confined in the physical space, but because women in this time period were confined socially and politically as well.

 

-- How Warner Bros.' house style is appropriate for this subject matter:

 

The sound of the siren and other street noises, the narrow view of city streets through the window (the fact that the first view is from inside a vehicle), and the sarcastic comments of both the police officers and the female prisoner all are reminiscent of Warner’s house style. The dark, gritty, urban, “B-movie” feel works well here because this is unexplored, uncomfortable territory, and the view isn’t pretty, literally or metaphorically. The woman’s face we see is contorted with misery, dread, and fear, like an animal’s. It’s a powerful, evocative image, and I felt more sympathy for this woman than for any other character we've seen in these clips so far.

 

-- How film noir might influence this film's realism about life behind bars/why the "substance of noir" is appropriate for this story:

 

This is serious subject matter, touching on themes that would make anyone uncomfortable today, let alone in the highly gendered, strictly defined society of the 1950s. As film noir, Caged emphasizes the realism inherent in the dark side of female experience that most would prefer to think simply doesn’t exist—a reality entirely at odds with the symbol of the American housewife as moral center of the family. A women’s prison, and all it suggests in terms of crime, sex, violence, anger, and desperation, is in stark contrast with the sunny, responsible, domestic, sociable, idealized housewife. Like the female prisoners, we are not allowed to escape the fact that we have been driven to a place from which we might never return or recover.

  • Like 4

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Confined and condemned in Caged

The dim and confined space of the opening scene of Caged is appropriate in showing the viewer how the women in the paddy-wagon feel like stray animals that have been captured by the dogcatcher.  The small, mesh-covered window feels a claustrophobic feeling along with the shifting view as the vehicle turns corners.  Finally, the bewildered face of Eleanor Parker sums up the state of mind of a first-time offender:  "how did I end up here?"  Prisoners are much like stray animals: unacceptable to proper society and forced to confinement for the protection of that society--outcasts.

The Warner House style is captured in the mechanical sounds of the ride to the prison.  The blaring siren indicates the mood of the grittiness of the subject matter of the film.  The dark lighting adds to the seedy slice of life that the movie will project.  This is definitely not the light-hearted tone of an MGM musical or romantic comedy; we already know that there will not be a happy ending but a finale full of doubt.

The viewer realizes that the film will have the substance of noir from the grim tone of the opening.  The life in a female prison has all of the violence, hard-boiled toughness, and delusion as Detour.  The presence of broken lives and the consequences that follow are very similar to the motives of criminals in a Marlowe detective story.

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The opening scene in Caged seemed designed to put the viewer in the same frame within the prison van along with Eleanor Parker much the way the audience was forced to be a participant in Kill Me Deadly and The Hitch-Hiker.  Right away we are moved to understand the motives at play (or at least try to) in what was probably one of the first women's prison films and a complete turn-around in noir gender roles.  What we learn from this scene is a perfect example of Robert Porfirio's definition of existentialism.  Eleanor Parker is the disoriented individual facing a confused world she cannot accept, but of course with the prison walls looming in the background, she has little choice.

 

We assume the rest of the film will be about how she will be dealing with "the sickness, loneliness, dread and nausea."  This should be a noir role-breaking film with a female lead rather than the typical femme fatale we were used to in the films of the 40s.  I would chalk this up to another post World War II innovation to the film makers tools for film noir.     

post-36016-0-07939100-1436415415_thumb.jpg

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

How much more black can it be? None. None more black. I mean really, you start off in the bleakest of states in the film Caged. Rock bottom is exactly this. The certainty of hopelessness seems beyond prevalent in this scene. Even the viewer is wondering what they did wrong. 

 

In terms of lighting and cinematography, it is helpful that the upper portion of the paddy wagon is slightly lit above the credits. The small square of what is viewed through the window would have lacked the ability to convince us that we were in the wagon with all the rest. The environment is believable in this sense. This is the social realism of the Warner Bros. style. They were gritty, and honest, and present this opening sequence in an almost 1st person point of view in a documentary manner. 

 

Socially, politically, and ethically there is a wonderful outreach in this film to represent the plight of women. As a man who didn't live in this time period and who can only base his impression on history books, art, and literature, I would imagine that I would have felt "caged" as a woman even without being sent to prison. 

 

How demeaning it is of the officer, to say, "alright you tramps, pile out". It is hard for the viewer to be convince that the phrase is fitting for this group. Especially for the elderly woman who clumsily stumbles out, and our apparent main character, who is utterly shocked, horrified, and frankly, out of place. Agnes Moorehead plays the seasoned one, who apparently "knows the score". 

 

What we really have here is the deliverance into the existential crisis. This time from a woman's point of view. Just from the expression on Eleanor Parker's face, we can tell she is feeling like she is in some terrible nightmare. 

 

In this opening scene it appears that the film makers are attempting to discuss the injustices that women face. For as difficult as it might be for a potentially innocent man to fight for his freedoms, it will be all that more difficult for a woman who had only won the right to vote about 20 years earlier. 

 

Parker's character is instructed by Moorehead's to take the last glimpse at the 'free side'. You're in the underworld baby and you haven't even begun to suffer. The message is that she is not only fighting her case, but she is fighting more the chauvinistic attitudes first. She is being sent to prison more because of societies inability to see her as an equal and viable human, and less for what she MIGHT have done. 

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

How appropriate that in the beginning of Caged, we are exactly that; caged in a dark truck going off to prison. Like the opening of Kiss Me Deadly and The Hitch-Hiker, we find ourselves riding along in a car, out somewhere unknown and with total strangers.... only this time, we are with already convicted criminals! The blaring emergency sirens in close proximity and the train sounds from afar, let us know this is a urban setting, unlike the middle of nowhere desert of both in Kiss Me Deadly and The Hitch-Hiker, which is consistent with the Warners Brothers style of gritty, urban settings. Even the police are unfriendly, not only yanking Parker out of the truck, but calling her a "tramp" as well (which I'm sure would be grounds for disciplinary action today). The atmosphere is hostile and filled with fear. Even as we take one last look at freedom, we are still caged, looking mainly at a black gate (reminding us of the prison we are facing inside) and a wall of busy traffic behind that. One gets the feeling even the freedom option is just another end-of-the-line for this character. 

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This was a great start of a movie really creative and novel compared to other film noir movies. I really liked the subtleness of not using any words. But it wasn't so drastic to the point where we may miss the connection of the title and the opening scene. Without any words we have confusion and apprehension as with the main character may have. So it helps us to be able to connect. I think the opening really explores a caged feeling and then the prison atmosphere also shows us more caged experiences to settle us into the movie

 

This has a similar feel to WB movies that others have discussed so I feel I would only be repeating what they talk about with the urban settings' so I'll leave that alone.

 

I think this movie has a lot of darkness and bluntness and although it may have been different in a real woman's prison it shows us that it was not a happy place. Which I think is what we can expect.  

 

Mark

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The thing I enjoyed most about the opening of Caged, and most 50's films noir for that matter, is the dynamic movement of the title credits. Jump back a decade to The Maltese Falcon and everything is titled very statically and mundane. Not the 1950's, no dice here. Each opening sequence is rampant with quick moves, and this scene conveys that masterfully.

The reveal of the woman's face is also a neat bit of subtlety, with the pain and the fear conveyed silently being beyond the usual amount of weakness exhibited in a noir opener. And as if things weren't gritty enough, Agnes Moorehead crowns this thing with a cherry on top, advising her to get her last look of freedom while she can. Haven't seen this flick, but my curiousity is definitely peaked.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Caged opens in a very claustrophobic manner. We are confined alongside the women within the prisoner transport vehicle, as though we are guilty too. This opening is effective due to the realistic depiction of what it feels like to be a prisoner. The confines of the vehicle are reminiscent of the confines of a cell, with the small window providing a trickling of light shining through. The women are experiencing the first taste of being caged.

 

Warner Bros. released gritty, realistic pictures aimed at grasping aspects/issues of the tough times in real life. The accuracy of prison life is difficult, dreadful, and hopeless. Many people incarcerated (especially those with decades to a lifetime sentence) would probably have feelings of fear and hopelessness. These aspects are always rampant within a film noir. Therefore, a film noir revolving around the confines of prison is merely a perfect coupling.

 

The substance of noir is an unflinchingly truthful account of real life. Life isn't always rainbows, smiley faces, and butterflies. Life is hard, it's work, and sometimes it's grim for a lengthy period of time. And film noir taking place in a prison raises the effect of implementing these realistic depictions. After all, prison is a place most people fear, and what better subject for a film noir to tackle than prison.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

"Caged" is a masterpiece of female-driven noir. Eleanor Parker shines. Great opening! It occurs to me that film noir filmmakers really excelled at what they didn't show us. Production code did, perhaps inadvertently, help push creative boundaries to new heights. I am beginning to see the signature and similarities of these WB, Jerry Wald-produced films. The darkness, with just a glimpse of light, is so foreboding. Audio and movement are accentuated by the dimness of imagery. The stark, hard realism is beautifully offset by Parker's timidness, seeming innocence. As we discover, the dedication of Parker in this role is almost unsurpassed. Virginia Kellogg co-writes another absolute gem. 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Speaking of remakes, Warners did another version of CAGED in 1962 entitled HOUSE OF WOMEN, with Shirley Knight in the Eleanor Parker role. Haven't seen it, but (no offense) the presence of Ms. Knight is worth the price of admission for me.

Good call! 

post-36016-0-22762300-1436429825_thumb.jpg

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

© 2020 Turner Classic Movies Inc. A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved Terms of Use | Privacy Policy
×
×
  • Create New...