Lady in a Cage [1964]

In Lady in a Cage, Olivia de Havilland plays an aging, wealthy widow who is recuperating from a recent hip operation and is forced to use an elevator to get from one story of her home to the other. While she's headed for the upper story of the house, a power failure occurs that leaves her stranded in the elevator car 12 feet off the ground. The elevator's alarm bell arouses the curiosity of a passing wino, who comes in and helps himself to the widow's wine cellar. The transient and a friend begin looting the house until they are one-upped by a trio of feral, neobeatnik thugs (led by a very young James Caan). All the invaders merely ignore the widow's pleas for help as they toss her house in an orgy of violence. The thugs torture and kill the wino and hold his friend hostage along with the widow, until the tables are turned on them once again. For 1964, this is a surprisingly harsh and overwrought movie, easily 10 or 15 years ahead of its time; its nasty view of human nature and graphic violence led to its being banned in Britain entirely. James Caan, in his second movie role, is chillingly convincing as the pack leader whose violent streak comes as casually as, say, tying his shoelaces. Fans of Paul Schrader, Scorsese, or Tarantino films should especially take notice: Lady in a Cage is a nerve-racking viewing experience, one that still packs a noxious punch, with an ending that's a real jaw-dropper. --Jerry Renshaw

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