Caged was not the first movie with scene set inside a women’s correctional facility. The Wrong Road (1937), for example, had Helen Mack scrubbing floors in a prison after helping her bank teller boyfriend embezzle some money. But Caged was the first movie to set itself entirely in a women’s prison, with the few men briefly appearing on screen representing the parole board and a doctor who is called in. It can be seen as the forerunner of the “Women in Prison” genre, though it is far grittier and lacks the exploitation leanings that the defined the genre in the ’60s. The script was based on a story by Virginia Kellogg, who arranged to have herself incarcerated in a prison, and wrote down everything she saw, and the movie is obviously
The plot focuses on Marie Allen, a 19-year-old first-time prisoner who was charged as an accessory in a botched hold-up in which her husband was killed. Eleanor Parker was a bit too old to play a 19-year-old, but she turns in an amazing performance which starts as an innocent, frightened child, and gradually evolves into a harden woman, primed to enter a life of crime. The characterization of all of the other characters is remarkably good, and sullen, sleepy-eyed Jan Sterling stood out in a small role as a wise-cracking inmate. It is too bad all of her other movies seem so hard to find.