Caged Fury (1989)
Director: Bill Milling
Tagline: they learned their lesson the hard way!
Plot: If you ever have to explain the concept of in medias res to someone, consider showing the first five minutes of Caged Fury, which begins with a lingerie-clad prisoner Shawshanking her way out of a cell via a hole hidden behind a poster of some superhunks. The action then shifts to an oily, mulleted guard named Spyder (played by veteran character actor Gregory Scott Cummins, fresh from a short stint as a punter for the San Diego Chargers) confronting a slacking co-worker and, out of nowhere, coming at the dude with a straight razor:
Meanwhile, on a ranch in Utah (and in a seemingly unrelated film), Roxanna Michaels (as "Cat") prepares to leave her overprotective daddy and pursue her dreams of becoming a movie star in Hollywood. On her way through the desert, she runs into veteran Pacific Coast hustler April Dawn Dollarhide, who suggests they both crash with a friend of hers, sleazy "fashion" photographer Blake Bahner, who greets our heroine by sidling up behind her, breathing on her neck and saying, "Cat, huh? As in pussy?"
The three new best friends head to a Sunset Strip metal club, where Michaels is almost raped by a biker gang, but is saved in the nick of time by motorcycle stunt rider Erik Estrada and his kickboxing mercenary buddy Richard Barathy (who's fought in "'Nam… Beirut… Tripoli," according to Estrada). To show her gratitude, Michaels invites Estrada back to the photographer's pad, where Bahner offers them "some kick-ass blow." (When Estrada declines, Bahner shrugs, "Whatever floats your boat, homeboy.")
The threads of the movie finally converge when the photographer introduces Michaels to some movie producers, who shoot a scene with her pretending to be a prostitute, then use the footage in a fake trial for solicitation, before sticking her in a fake prison that's really a front for a white-slavery ring. Fortunately, Michaels has some guardian angels looking after her. One is her sister, Elena Sahagun, who may be the skankiest rancher's daughter in Utah:
Unfortunately for Michaels, Sahagun's bright idea for finding her missing sister is to retrace her steps so precisely that she too ends up in fake jail. Fortunately for Michaels and Sahagun, the smitten Estrada is on the case. Unfortunately for the two ladies—and for anyone who rented Caged Fury hoping to watch Estrada in action—he quickly takes a bullet and disappears for most of the rest of the movie, leaving Barathy to locate the fake prison and engage in a 20-minute fight scene that rivals the climax of Hard Boiled, only with more kickboxing, more lingerie, and more campy cameos by Ron Jeremy:
Finally, Barathy frees the slaves and they go streaming out of their hellhole and into the daylight, discovering that all along they've been warehoused in an office park across the street from Grauman's Chinese Theater. The escapees leap about with glee, presumably savoring the irony.
Key scenes: As might be expected from a movie laden with sexual assault, Caged Fury's most memorable moments are related to violence and kink, as in this early scene where Dollarhide fights off a would-be rapist with a cigarette lighter:
Or this one, in which Estrada and Barathy punch out Sunset Strip greaseballs in pajama pants while an effete hard-rock band plays on:
Or this one, in which Michaels performs her fateful on-camera seduction scene (with Jack Carter!) and pesters her director with irrelevant questions:
Surprisingly, in the midst of all the vamping and stamping, Caged Fury features one graceful performance by B-movie stalwart Michael Parks, playing Michaels' and Sahagun's rancher pop:
Luckily, Sahagun is around to drag any momentarily moving scene back down to its proper level.
Can easily be distinguished by: Lighting, costume design and art direction that resemble a mid-'80s episode of MTV's Headbanger's Ball.
Sign that it was made in 1989: The Guns 'N' Roses poster on the wall of Michaels' Utah bedroom. (Although perhaps the poster is meant to represent the heroine's dreams of show business, so easily perverted by one rowdy night in Hollywood. See also: the poster on the prison wall in the movie's opening scene.)
Timeless message: It takes some ridiculously elaborate ruses to keep the white slave market going. But it's worth it!
Memorable quotes: Almost too many to list, from the mobbed-up fake movie producer's order to Bahner to "shove the sales pitch, leave the talent, and rotate yourself on out of here" to Dollarhide's warning to Michaels about her near-rapist, that "the lard-ass is goin' to treat us to some weird-ass kind of lovin'." But the champion Caged Fury quote comes when Michaels tells Dollarhide that she's on her way to L.A., prompting the hitchhiker to say, "Last time I hit Hollywood, I was sweet 16 and caught 'tween T-shirts and training bras. Now I got tits! And street smarts!"
Available on DVD from Image Entertainment