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(aka "The Mafu Cage" or "Don't Ring the Doorbell!" or "My Sister, My Love" or "Deviation" )

 

directed by Karen Arthur
USA 1978

 

Ellen (Lee Grant, DAMIEN: OMEN II) is a spinsterish astronomer charged by her parents with the care of her unstable sister Cissy (Carol Kane, WHEN A STRANGER CALLS), who has thoroughly immersed herself in the world of her late father who studied primate behavior in Africa (where the two sisters grew up). She has devoted herself to continuing her father's work and spends her days with her pet ape Mafu (Budnar). When Cissy violently kills the animal, she emotionally and physically manipulates enabler Ellen into getting a new Mafu from family friend Zom (Will Geer, IN COLD BLOOD). With Cissy placated, Ellen finds herself reluctantly becoming interested in co-worker David (James Olsen, AMITYVILLE II: THE POSSESSION) and spending more time with him than Cissy. Cissy, however, goes off the deep end when she realizes that she has a rival for Ellen's devotion. Based on Eric Wesphal's French play "You and Your Clouds," THE MAFU CAGE is more arthouse than grindhouse (distributors played up the exploitation elements, first retitling it DEVIATION, then MY SISTER, MY LOVE, and even DON'T RING THE DOORBELL! at some point). Director Karen Arthur (only the second female DGA member) responded deeply to the material and went above and beyond what the low budget allowed (she and writer Don Chastain also double as Cissy's and Ellen's parents in album photographs). Art director Conrad Anglione used his art connections to borrow authentic African artifacts for the house and hand-painted the various murals in the house to add splashes of color without cluttering the set decoration while cinematographer John Bailey's photography and lighting are simple yet elegant. Bailey is assigned the credit of "Visual Consultant" (Bailey also shot Paul Schrader's CAT PEOPLE in which designer Ferdinando Scarfiotti was credited as "Visual Consultant"). Editor Carol Littleton contrasts the busy sound collage of original score and African stock music denoting Cissy's world with the Roger Kellaway's (SILENT SCREAM) elegant, chamber music of Ellen's workplace refuge. Although the film belongs to Kane - who goes all out in conveying her character's madness - Grant sensitively plays the enabler (in the commentary Arthur contrasts Cissy's introverted nature with that of Ellen's supposed extroversion; Ellen looks out at the world [the stars], but from a distance). Approached as a serious drama rather than exploitation, THE MAFU CAGE is quite compelling and deliberately paced despite the intentional - and arty - atmosphere of languor.

Eric Cotenas

Poster

Theatrical Release: 1 December 1978 (USA)

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DVD Review: Scorpion Releasing - Region 0 - NTSC

Big thanks to Eric Cotenas for the Review!

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Distribution

Scorpion Releasing

Region 0 - NTSC

Runtime 1:35:33
Video

1.78:1 Original Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 5.6 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate

Audio English (Dolby Digital 2.0 mono)
Subtitles none
Features Release Information:
Studio: Scorpion Releasing

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 1.78:1

Edition Details:
• Commentary with director Karen Arthur
• Commentary with director of photography John Bailey and editor Carol Littleton
• Vision of Clouds: interview with Karen Arthur (4:3; 44:30)
• Shot & Slice: interview with John Bailey and Carol Littleton (4:3; 26:57)
• Cissy and Her Clouds: interview with Carol Kane (4:3; 20:06)
• Solar Flare: interview with Lee Grant (4:3; 16:50)
• Deleted Scene (4:3; 8:25)
• Alternate Title Card: THE CAGE (4:3; 1:13)
• Alternate Title Card: MY SISTER, MY LOVE (4:3; 1:26)
• Photo Gallery (16:9; 8:08)

DVD Release Date: October 25th, 2010
Amaray

Chapters 12

 

Comments

Mastered in HD, THE MAFU CAGE looks great for the most part (director Karen Arthur commends the new transfer), conveying the balance of natural lighting, color gels, and the primary colors of the art direction. There are scratches here and there but the transfer is mostly very clean and the subdued colors look accurate (minus the murk of the tape releases). Scorpion's transfer features the title DEVIATION (Arthur exclaims her disgust with the title change on the commentary track). Audio is clean from the layered montage of original score and stock African music in Cissy's scenes to the elegant, chamber music and more naturalistic sound effects of Ellen's scenes. This version is missing an eight minute intercutting sequence that was removed without Arthur's knowledge; it is included as a "deleted scene" in the bonus features (it was featured on the Wizard Video tape release which is the likely source). The Karen Arthur commentary track is very informative and she is very appreciative of her collaboration with the cast and crew. She touches upon some elements that are not readily apparent in the film itself (such as her interpretation of the meaning of the French source play's title "You and Your Clouds") and the contrast between the extroverted Ellen (although she observes things from a distance like her stars) and introverted Cissy.

The second commentary track with cinematographer John Bailey and editor Carol Littleton is also an interesting listen. There is some overlap between the commentaries and the two lengthy interviews featuring the aforementioned participants but it is nice to see this film so fondly remembered. Star Carol Kane and Lee Grant are also on hand for some very welcome and candid interviews. Two alternate title cards are supplied. THE CAGE is the video-burned title from the Magnum Entertainment tape release while MY SISTER MY LOVE is a reissue (sourced from the cropped Wizard tape). Wizard released the film twice, the other release was under its original title THE MAFU CAGE but it was video-burned (the previous unauthorized, cut, tape-sourced budget DVD featured THE MAFU CAGE title as it originally appeared). Strangely, THE CAGE version (and the aforementioned unauthorized THE MAFU CAGE edition) are missing the narration over the opening credits featured in DEVIATION and MY SISTER, MY LOVE. Since the music is unaffected, it appears that two alternate mixes of this opening were created. The photo gallery is quite lengthy and definitely worth a look. There is no trailer for the feature (I don't recall ever coming across one), nor are there any trailers for other Scorpion Releasing titles (it's just as well as this DVD9 is loaded). An obscure, underrated film gets a prestigious special edition treatment.

  - Eric Cotenas

 



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DVD Box Cover

CLICK to order from:

 

 

Distribution

Scorpion Releasing

Region 0 - NTSC

 

 




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