Here we are friends. If you can be sure of anything in this ever changing world of ours it's that Blairvember is here, and here to stay. This week we dive into another Linda Blair "classic" from 1983, Chained Heat.
This the first WIP (Women In Prison) film we've covered on the podcast but it's far from the first one ever produced. Fans of the exploitation genre are probably familiar with Jack Hill's The Big Bird Cage (1971) and Jonathan Demme's Caged Heat (1974) (the same Jonathan Demme who directed Silence of the Lambs) but the WIP genre actually goes back to the 1950's with Caged (1950) which starred Eleanor Parker and Agnes Moorehead.
It wasn't until the late 1960's however that the Women In Prison genre became what everyone is familiar with today - a bizarre sexualized fantasy of of women behind bars. This phenomenon can probably be tracked back to Jesus Franco's 99 Women (1969) and Love Camp 7 (1969). There have been dozens of women in prison films produced since the later 1960's and Chained Heat is only special for one thing - Linda Blair.
Chained Heat is not the best Women in Prison film - it's far from it. The movie benefits as being one of the only films in this genre to feature a recognizable star in the cast. Why Linda Blair agreed to be in this film is beyond me and she has personally stated that the script kept getting changed and the movie that was eventually shot was not what she had initially agreed to.
It would be interesting to know what the original film was intended to be as what we got is a huge waste of Linda's presence. She spends most of this movie just crying and reacting to the people around her. She plays a weak character that is supposed to engender sympathy from the audience but instead makes a series of decisions that leaves us baffled.
The real saving grace of this movie is John Vernon's character. He seems to know exactly what movie he is in and is loving every second of it. Playing the opportunistic Warden, Vernon lives in a pleasure palace within the prison in which he lures girls into his lair with false promises of fame and fortune while filming his own personal pornography collection. It's clear he enjoyed his time on set and it makes for an enjoyable watch, as for Linda, it seems like she viewed this movie as an actual prison sentence - she looks depressed and surprised at how far her star had fallen at this point.
It's hard to recommend this movie as it's just not very good. It has great moments and interesting performances (specifically John Vernon and Sybil Danning) but it's mostly just an incoherent mess. It's a shame too as the idea of a Linda in prison movie is so intriguing - imagine if they gave her a character like Brenda from Savage Streets to play with in a scenario like this? That's what we all wanted but it's certainly not what we got.