Caged, considered the best woman's prison film ever made, represents a union between realistic socially conscious drama and the more stylized world of film noir. Marie, (Eleanor Parker), is sentenced to prison for helping her husband in a small robbery. The prison is run by the sadistic matron Evelyn (Hope Emerson) who is secure in her position due to corrupt political influence. The film shows Marie's slow disillusionment with society and her eventual decision to become a prostitute in order to gain parole after observing her friend and fellow inmate Kitty (Betty Garde) lose her sanity and murder their oppressor Evelyn. With this uncompromisingly pessimistic statement on human nature, John Cromwell reaches his peak as a director. Under his expert direction, Eleanor Parker gives the best performance of her career and creates a convincing metamorphosis from a innocent young girl to a hardened criminal. Her performance is nuanced, low-keyed and emotionally charged. Equally impressive is Cromwell's visual realization of the claustrophobia of prison life, aided by the high-contrast photography of Carl Guthrie. This excellent, grim drama is uncompromising in its refusal to sentimentalize the plight of Marie as a victim or to absolve her of her role in her fate, nor does it absolve society as it shows the results of desperation and brutalization on human dignity.