The Big Bird Cage, 1972
If you only see one “women in prison” movie, make it this one. It was written and directed by Jack Hill, the fellow behind many, many exploitation classics like Spider Baby, Switchblade Sisters, and Foxy Brown. The movie stars a very young and very hot Pam Grier herself, Sid Haig (awesome here, and seen later in life in a number of Tarantino and Rob Zombie movies), and Anitra Ford, star of Invasion of the Bee Girls.
If you like exploitation flicks, this has it all: hot girls with raging libidos, death and dismemberment, and of course some pretty dubious sexual politics. Unlike some other exploitation flicks, though, The Big Bird Cage is upbeat and fun as hell to watch. Grier and Haig are charming, and although you’re not quite sure what you’re watching you can’t wait to see what happens next.
It’s not for everyone, of course, but this quickly became one of my favorite exploitation movies ever and that’s strong praise from me.