Monday, December 5, 2022


CAGE (1989)

Rated R | Color | 100 minutes

I first witnessed CAGE nearly a decade ago when my good friend (and Vault-Cast cohost) "Silent" Steve and I were looking for something to watch one night, that we haven't already seen before. Luckily I had brought along my CD wallet filled with VHS rips for this occasion, and after flipping through dozens of pages of DVD-Rs, we settled on CAGE. What followed was an evening of pure entertainment with both of us frequently pointing at the screen and yelling "Hey, it's that guy!"

Synopsis: During the Vietnam War, a soldier named Billy Thomas (Lou Ferrigno) saves his friend Scott Monroe (Reb Brown), but ends up taking a bullet to the skull as their helicopter dusts off from the warzone. The wound amazingly doesn't kill the musclebound GI but instead causes brain damage, thus rendering him a child in a Hulk's body. Shortly after their stint in the military, the two friends open up a bar together only to run afoul of a local gang that runs an illegal underground fighting ring. Eventually, both men are pulled into the dark world of brutal cage matches, leading to a fairly action-packed finale filled with gun fights and fist fights.

CAGE is a tonally offbeat film that tries striking a balance between being a post-Vietnam drama about two men struggling to recover after their tour of duty in one of the most controversial military conflicts in American history, and being a proto-LIONHEART action crime-thriller! The end result is a movie that is sometimes cheesy, but highly entertaining! And you absolutely will not believe how many recognizable faces you'll see in CAGE Vault Dwellers! My God, the cast in this movie is crazy! 

Besides Reb Brown (STRIKE COMMANDO, HOWLING II: YOUR SISTER IS A WEREWOLF, SPACE MUTINY) and Lou Ferrigno (the original INCREDIBLE HULK himself), we get Al Leong (the Asian henchmen in every movie), Danny Trejo (in an early uncredited role), James Shigeta (Mr. Takagi in DIE HARD), Branscombe Richmond (Bobby Sixkiller on TV's RENEGADE), and a plethora of other (vaguely) familiar faces that'll have you bringing up the film's IMDB page on your phone over and over again!

After its theatrical premiere in 1989 and VHS release a year later, CAGE passed into absolute obscurity. And as of my writing this post, it has been several decades since this gem has been readily available to the public! Vault Dwellers, I declare that the time has come for CAGE to finally be given the chance to find itself an audience by getting a triumphant Blu-ray debut! The world needs to experience this film dammit!

Reb Brown and Lou Ferrigno share a sad, dramatic moment in CAGE (1989)!
The utter lack of a CAGE Blu-ray saddens Reb & Lou.

Availability: CAGE (aka THE CAGE, aka CAGE FIGHTER) is completely out of print! You can find used VHS copies all over eBay (hailing from the U.S., U.K., and South Korea) for around $10 each. If you no longer own a VCR, you could instead attempt to get your paws on the long out of print DVD on eBay (which ranges from $40 - $70)! However, your best bet to see this movie is to watch it on YouTube for free! There are several different channels that have uploaded CAGE in its entirety, but I personally think this is the best version available.

Current Rights Holder: CAGE hit theaters in the U.S. on September 1, 1989 and raked in a little over $618,000. (Note: The film also saw theatrical release in South Korea and Portugal over the following two years.) In 1989, Image Organization in the UK released CAGE in a big box VHS, while here in the States, Orion Home Video would bring the film to VHS in 1990 shortly before they filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

In the same year, CAGE would get another stateside VHS release from the defunct UAV Corporation, and a cool clamshell VHS from Korean company Hanjin Video. After that, the movie dropped off the face of the planet until Trinity Home Entertainment briefly released CAGE to DVD in 2004. That release is now unavailable and being sold for exorbitant prices on eBay.

So who holds the very fate of CAGE in their hands at this point? Well, initially I was leaning towards Orion Pictures (now revived under parent company MGM), until I realized that they only acted as a distributor for the movie. So I deduced (correctly it would turn out) that the film's Producer/Director Lang Elliot (who is currently the President of Sunn Classic Pictures Inc.) still retains the rights to his film, and its sequel! 

I got this straight from the horse's mouth after recently getting in touch with Mr. Elliott, who was kind enough to share some cool background information about his movie, such as the Gracie family's involvement, and CAGE's impact on the mainstream appeal of cage-fighting & mixed martial arts!

Blu-ray Wishlist:

  • A new 2K transfer (4K would be asking a bit much, no?) made from the best surviving film elements available in the film's original 1.85:1 aspect ratio!
  • Dolby Digital 2.0 and/or 5.1 audio mixes!
  • CAGE II as a bonus feature film!
  • Audio commentary with Director Lang Elliott!
  • A making of featurette/documentary featuring interviews with Lang Elliott, Reb Brown, Lou Ferrigno, Al Leong, and other surviving cast & crew!
  • Deleted and/or extended scenes (if any exist)!
  • Behind-the-scenes footage! 
  • Poster and behind-the-scenes stills gallery!
  • Original theatrical trailers. 

CAGE has definite cult appeal and I'd hate to see it remain unreleased and unloved, especially in this current era where studios and boutique Blu-ray labels are scouring archives and vaults for titles to release. Hopefully by shining a spotlight on CAGE ever so briefly, I can generate enough interest for someone to dig up a print, get the film properly restored, and share it with the masses! And now that I've done my due diligence, all that I can do is play the waiting game and hope that CAGE's imprisonment in movie limbo ends soon.

UPDATE: In my recent discourse with Lang Elliott, I learned that there are currently several companies seeking to license the film for both Blu-ray and streaming releases, but nothing is set in stone yet. Here's hoping Vinegar Syndrome is one of the contenders - CAGE is definitely in their wheelhouse and they always do a fantastic job on all of their Blu-ray titles! Stay tuned for more updates on this one gang!

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