Flying Squirrel Boxing Productions
The KO Picture Show
Presents. . .
Cage (1989)

TAILOR-MADE for Mystery Science Theater 3000.
Oh, how I miss Mike and the Bots....

I'm at a loss for words. Honestly. Writing a coherent synopsis for this movie is almost more than I can fathom. The ineptitude of the filmmakers coupled with the absolute Malaria-level of insanity that the actors must have been suffering from when they read the "script" for this sucker and said, "sure, I'll do it" is only trumped by the fact that everyone was able to keep a straight face throughout. The fact that the dialogue isn't drown out by peels of laughter from the cast and crew is evidence of a Herculean effort in and of itself. After a few aborted attempts, I've decided to just write a VERY short synopsis, followed by a simple list of the miscues that I feel point to a real case of dementia within the movie-making community. Trying to address the problems while presenting the "plot" as it unfolded proved too difficult, with the digressions becoming almost biblical in their length. Okay... there, but for the grace of God, I must go.....

1969. Vietnam.<
YEAH RIGHT! snicker!......dammit! control yourself, Rob!>
Billy Thomas (Ferrigno) and his superior officer, Scott Monroe (Reb Brown, who MST3K fans will immediately recognize as 'Thick McRunFast' from the immortal "Space Mutiny" episode of MST3K) are part of a platoon that's in quick retreat from a Vietcong regiment. Billy makes it to the getaway chopper, and while making a heroic effort to save a wounded Scott, he takes a round of machine gun fire to the temple.<
snort!..keep it together now!>

Rather than dying, Billy makes his way through a painful recovery. He regains full faculty of his motor skills, but he's a little slow on the uptake now, as one might expect. So, by 1989 Scott has taken Billy in, and they now live together in a "father/son"-type of relationship (albeit, if your 5 year old son was a 325 pound gorilla). Scott owns a bar, but he's in financial trouble. How will he ever dig himself out of this hole?

Meanwhile, two gangsters, Tony (Michael Dante) and Mario (Mike Maroff) are sitting ringside at the eponymous CAGE, an arena for a type of battle that someone in the movie actually refers to as "human cock-fighting"
<SNORT!...easy now big fella...> Anyway, Tony and Mario keep picking the wrong fighter in these CAGE matches, and now they happen to owe a great deal of money to both the Japanese mafia, headed by Tim Lum Yin (played by James Shigeta, who's stony face and oddly soothing voice was instantly recognizably to me from his, literally, short-lived appearance as Mr. Takagi in "Die Hard"), and to the Italian mafia, headed by Mr. Costello (Al Ruscio). Their lives have been threatened via the usual mafia/loan-sharking avenues. How will they ever dig themselves out of this hole?

By a fantastic coincidence, the two low-level gangsters that we've just been introduced to stop into Scott's bar. As soon as Tony and Mario sit down for a drink, a gang of highly suspect Latinos walk into the bar and start causing trouble (I say they're suspect because their leader, Diablo, is played by the instantly recognizable American Indian actor
Branscombe Richmond. The rest of the gang is of questionable ethnicity as well). MAN, did these guys walk into the wrong bar! Scott and Billy quickly dispatch the entire gang with some moves that are very reminiscent of the "human cock-fighting" we saw earlier. Tony and Mario immediately see these 2 big galoots as their ticket to some wins in THE CAGE and offer them a chance to fight for money. Scott says Billy and him aren't interested and tells the gangsters to get lost. But Tony and Mario aren't easily dissuaded. After hiring Diablo and his gang to burn down Scott's bar in what I have to assume is a plot to make Scott even MORE desperate for money (I'm guessing at this point. I'm really not sure...), Tony and Mario simply trick Billy into getting into the car with them and then trick Billy into getting into THE CAGE under the false pretense of saving Scott's business.

(AUTHOR'S NOTE: In the interest of saving everyone's time and patience, I'll make a concerted effort to try and wind this up as fast as possible now.)

While Billy fights in THE CAGE, Scott goes on a kill-crazy rampage, murdering Diablo and his gang and a couple of Tim Lum Yin's henchmen, all in the name of finding Billy. He eventually ends up at the warehouse where THE CAGE is housed, and immediately gets caught and thrown in a makeshift jail with an investigative journalist and an undercover cop who've existed in a parallel plotline up to this point (my only excuse for failing to mention them until now is that they have ABSOLUTELY NO IMPACT ON THE PLOT, WHATSOEVER!!!
<EASY ROB! take it easy now...breathe...relax....>). Of course Scott gets out, just as quickly gets recaptured, and then is forced to fight in THE CAGE in Billy's steed (as multiple punches to the site of Billy's gunshot wound have rendered him even goofier than usual). Yada, yada, yada, Scott wins in THE CAGE, yada, yada, yada, big shootout, the cops show, every major character (BUT Scott and Billy) ends up dead, they get the money to save the bar by the most convoluted means EVER (which I'll get to later), and we end by slowly panning down to the bloodied and assumedly dead body of Tim Lum Yin... who's hand twitches! (I SMELL SEQUEL!!....God, I wish I was kidding.......)


I'm sorry.... give me a second to collect myself here.... this one was BRUTAL! Even in my attempt to write a short summary of the "plot", I couldn't help but get derisive, and I apologize. Like I said earlier, I think the best course of action is to just LIST the numerous oddities that inhabited this little piece of celluloid known as "The Cage". I honestly could go on forever listing this movie's shortcomings, but I feel these are the "highlights":

The Vietnam Scene. I'll be honest... I'm not convinced that this footage was shot on location in Danang. I'm gonna go out on a limb and say that the producers saw a drainage ditch out behind the studio where a couple of maples were gently blowing in the breeze and said, "Looks like 'Nam to me!" Then they grabbed a handful of vaguely Asian looking people and, literally, dressed them in black pajamas. So, the “TJ Maxx Vietcong” is chasing Scott and Billy and their “platoon” (read: dead meat) through the wilds of a Southern California parking lot. They call for air support on what appears to be a household rotary phone, and then take cover behind a small patch of dandelions. Oddly enough, the ankle-high weeds don't provide adequate cover from the bullets and the platoon sustains almost 100% casualties, save for Scott, Billy, and the badly bleeding corpse that Billy is fireman’s carrying to the waiting helicopter. Billy tosses the stiff into the bulkhead, jumps in, and reaches out to Scott, who of course takes one in the shoulder just before he makes it on board. So Billy is holding Scott’s arm while Scott dangles off the side of the helicopter. No sooner does Billy say, “Don’t worry Captain, I’ve got you!” then a machine gun round strafes the side of the copter, and, for some reason, opens up a wound at Billy’s temple that squirts out cherry Kool-Aid. That’s honestly the level of special effects we’re working with here. Oh, by the way... Billy continues to hang on to Scott's arm AFTER he takes a round to the melon AND LOSES CONSCIOUSNESS! WHAT A TROOPER!

1969 to 1989. The Healing Years. As I said earlier, Billy flaunts general medical convention by living through the headshot, so over the opening credits we're treated to a "getting better" montage. Billy waking up from his coma. Billy moving around a little bit. Scott visiting Billy and reading him children's books (I'm not kidding). Billy learning to walk again. Billy getting visibly frustrated with his loss of mental capacity. And it's all set to a song that makes "Thank You For Being A Friend" from the beginning of 'The Golden Girls' sound like Slayer. Billy makes it out of the hospital and, suddenly, we're in Los Angeles, 1989. Seriously. 20 years in just under 3 minutes. And here's the kicker... Billy and Scott haven't aged a day! I kid you not!

The "Villains". Call me callous, but I never really felt sufficiently menaced by the "bad guys" in this film. Tony and Mario were little more than comic relief throughout. What was more troubling (or promising, I guess, depending on how you look at it...) was the diversity of people that had gained entrance into what were previously single-ethnicity criminal groups. Besides the "Latino" gang being led by an American Indian, we had an uncredited Danny Trejo as an Italian henchman, and the obligatory for an 80's action movie "creepy albino-ish" guy.... in the Japanese mafia! I'm taking some pretty long odds on some Rutger Hauer-wannabe making his way into the yakuza! That's a man with some serious ambition!

The Crying Scene. Wow. This was the point at which I had to pause the movie and get myself a stiff drink. Scott's bar has just burned down (BTW, the name of the joint is "Scott's Incoming Bar". As in, "INCOMING!" Enemy Fire! A little insensitive, in my opinion, considering the state of his friend Billy. Why not call the place "Scott's Mentally Debilitating Head Wound Bar"?). The police show up at Scott's door and tell him about the fire, and then mention that his old barmaid friend, Meme (Maggie Mae Miller) has perished in the blaze (inexplicably, the cops just say, "Sorry to be the bearers of bad news" and then leave! No, "Come with us, Mr. Monroe. We need you to fill out a couple of forms." They just show up, ruin Scott's day, and leave! Our work's done here! Serve, Protect, and Rain On Your Parade!). Anyway, Scott and Billy take the news of the dead barmaid pretty hard. If you ever want a mental image that'll put you off your kibble indefinitely, cue up this scene of Reb Brown and Lou Ferrigno crumpling up their faces and squirting out a few. I haven't eaten in a week!

Scott's Search for Billy. I mentioned earlier that Scott goes on a kill-crazy rampage to find Billy. But the impetus for his murder spree is what really blows my mind. After Tony and Mario "kidnap" Billy, Scott is in a panic to find him. He runs to the police to submit a missing persons request, but the officer on duty is less than helpful (even a little mean to our beefy, blonde hero). The only nugget of help that he offers to Scott is, "Can you think of anyone that would want to hurt Billy?" Scott looks off into the middle distance, trying to even fathom who would want to harm the sack of doorknobs that is Billy. His eyes eventually settle on the police officer's desk, where there's a coffee mug that has a picture of a hand-drawn devil on it. You can actually hear the synapses in Scott's head 'POP!' when he remembers that Diablo, the Latino gang leader that Billy beat up earlier in the film, had THE EXACT SAME HAND-DRAWN DEVIL TATTOOED ON HIS FOREARM! It's not like it was a smiley face or maybe Tweety bird, or some other common image! Apparently Diablo AND the police officer went to some sort of Tattoo Parlor/Hallmark Store combo where the hand-drawn devil logo is a hot seller! At any rate, this sets Scott off, and anyone who gets in his way is either pumped full of lead or given a waist-high roundhouse kick for their trouble. He only pauses in his ass-kickery to go tear-assing around town in his jeep (and, oddly enough, Scott's blonde hair turns mysteriously dark brown whenever he pulls off a particularly tough driving stunt. I guess the blonde stunt driver came down with a case of the trots on that day of shooting).

In a parallel dimension... the investigative journalist and the undercover cop. Totally befuddled by these two. WHAT was the point? We see the woman at the fights trying to look inconspicuous in a fedora and trenchcoat. Instead of a spy-sized mini-camera, or even a slightly compact regular camera, she's got a full-on, zoom lense Nikon strapped to her torso. She has to undo her entire trenchcoat just to snap a few pictures with the thing. It's about as subtle as a kick in the crotch. During these clandestine photo sessions, she's menaced from afar by a mysterious and odd looking Asian gentlemen who we assume is just one of the Yakuza heavies (the mystery man is played by another recognizable face from Die Hard and numerous other 80's and 90's action movies, Al Leong. Like his Die Hard co-star James Shigeta, Leong also has an oddly soothing speaking voice). We later learn that the man in the shadows, who goes by the giggle-worthy name of Tiger Joe, has been tracking the journalist in a failed attempt to get in the Japanese mafia's good graces. I say failed because Tiger Joe is IMMEDIATELY recognized by the Italian crime boss Costello as an undercover cop (and if you've ever seen Al Leong, his face doesn't exactly "blend in with the crowd". The Elephant Man could work more easily as an undercover operative). So both the journalist and  Tiger Joe get thrown in a holding cell of sorts. It would seem like the easy (and prudent) thing to do would be to edit these 2 out of the movie. They obviously edited out some sort of love story between Scott and the journalist, because when they see each other in the holding cell for the first time, Scott yells, "You!", and they run to each other and embrace, despite never even appearing on screen together up to this point (and in the interest of full disclosure, the journalist's name is Morgan and she's played by Marilyn Tokuda... but, honestly, who cares?). But in the end, editing out either of them is impossible. Marilyn spends the last 15 minutes of the movie glued to Scott's side (and I'm thinking reshoots and alternate endings weren't in the budget). And Tiger Joe plays an integral role at the end.

Ah yes... the ending.

Well, after a shootout CAGE-side takes out all of the bad guys, Tiger Joe turns to Billy, Scott, and the growth on Scott's side named Morgan and says, "I gotta find something to do with all this confiscated money" as he hefts a briefcase full of loot that was in the possession of one of the gangsters earlier. He then grins and tosses the briefcase (and any regard for the handling of evidence) to Scott and says, "Weren't you people trying to rebuild a bar?" Scott grins knowingly, and we fade to black. 

Taken out of context this last scene just seems silly, but in the parallel dimension that is THE CAGE, it truly is the perfect ending to one of the goofiest movies EVER filmed. Nice work everybody! I hope you can all sleep at night!


The Fightin' - 1
What fighting? OH, you mean the "human cock-fighting"! Well, it's no less silly than anything else in this movie. That's a plus, right?! If the combatants in THE CAGE had any formal martial arts training, they certainly didn't flaunt it. While I could write a book on the ineptitude of the fighting scenes alone, in the interest of brevity (too late!), I'll just focus on Billy's 1st bout. Billy is up against the Italian mafia's big tough guy and he's taking a pretty serious beating. At one point the bad guy has Billy pinned against THE CAGE, and he repeatedly punches our dim hero in the area of his 'nam injury. Instead of furthering Billy's brain damage, the blows to the temple spark some flashbacks, and Billy sees the earlier footage of his Hi-C spouting wound. Rather than following the usual route of dropping dead on the spot, he gets all pumped up and eventually ends up breaking the mob thug's neck. The Moral: People with a history of massive head injuries get STRONGER when you punch them in the noggin. I'm thinking about heading over to the head trauma unit of my local hospital and slapping around the patients until I got's me an army of superhumans! Who's comin' with me?!


Overall Rating - 1
The fact that this movie was "produced", in a monetary sense, leads me to assume that the funding for a feature-length documentary of me picking my nose is, literally, just around the corner. I currently have my finger at the ready, and I'm patiently waiting for the checks to come rolling in. (After doing a little research, I've come to find that "Cage" actually spawned a sequel, starring Brown and Ferrigno once again as Scott and Billy. The existence of "Cage II" can only point to the completely logical conclusion that the filming of my own bodily function-based sequel will start shortly. I've already decided on the title... "Air Hanky 2: Electric Boogaloo".)

The only plus that I can cull from viewing this pile is that when I and my fellow movie reviewers and fans begin that inevitable conversation about "the worst movie you've ever seen", I can now throw this entry into the ring with a great deal of confidence and just a hint of bravado. "Oh, you've never seen "Cage"? Well, then you haven't REALLY seen a bad movie at all now, HAVE YOU?!"

Rob Tillisch
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