Film #160: THE MAFU CAGE
The Mafu Cage (aka Don’t Ring The Doorbell aka The Cage aka Deviation aka My Sister, My Love)
2 out of 5 stars
Pure late ‘70s weirdness! THE MAFU CAGE tells the tale of two sisters (one who is trying to hold it all together and the other who is absolutely crazy). The two live in an old house under the constant shadow of their deceased archaeologist father. Lee Grant (IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT, DAMIEN: OMEN II) plays the rational sister. Carol Kane (WHEN A STRANGER CALLS, SCROOGED) is, of course, the nut-job. As the one sister tries to move on with her life, the other becomes more and more unglued until she finally commits murder. With a solid supporting cast of James Olson (THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN, COMMANDO) and Will Geer (JEREMIAH JOHNSON, THE WALTONS), this 1978 film is an examination of familial obligation and madness (and how sometimes they’re the same thing). Director Karen Arthur (THE JACKSONS: AN AMERICA DREAM, DEADLY JUSTICE) does a decent enough job with a script that sometimes has a tough time conveying its message. Kane once again proves herself a brave and talented actress who is willing to be adventurous and bold. Grant acts as a deep, substantial base that serves as a counterpoint to Kane’s madness. In odd ways, this film is reminiscent of films such as SISTERS and WHATEVER HAPPEN TO BABY JANE. Another interesting aspect of the film is that there are multiple levels of the captor/captee dynamic at work. The younger sister is, in many ways, a captive of the older sister who is her provider of food/water/bedding/...and pets. Due to her obvious mental illness, she cannot be allowed out of the home they both inhabit. Conversely, the older sister is the captive of the younger sister since she is unable to have a life since caring for her sister is more than a full-time job. All of this begs the question… who is the true dominant personality here? All in all, THE MAFU CAGE is an interesting yet imperfect experiment that never fully coalesces into a solid story and raises more questions than it answers. Flawed, but is still an interesting example of the kinds of films that were being made in the late ‘70s.