» Born American (1986, USA / Finland)

Born American - from left, Steve Durham as Mitch, David Coburn as KC, Mike Norris as Savoy Brown, and a blonde extra

There are so many genres that Born American tries to cover, it’s exhausting. There’s the road-trip-that-goes-horribly-wrong movie, the patriotic, xenophobic Cold War movie, the prison fight club movie, and the old fashioned blow-up-the-bad-guys action movie… with a little romance (and some counterbalancing cynicism about world powers’ espionage agencies) thrown in for good measure. It finishes as a bit of a messy disaster on all counts. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on March 1st, 2015 at 4:50 pm. Updated on March 1st, 2015 at 4:50 pm.

» Abashiri Bangaichi / The Walls of Abashiri Prison (1965, Japan)

The Walls of Abashiri Prison - Hirochi Nanbara as Gonda and Ken Takakura as Shin'ichi Tachibana

When I finally caught up with Abashiri Bangaichi I’d just seen Runaway Train (1985) - another film with two prisoners escaping through ice and snow and then engaging in communion with a train. This one has more snow, but a lot less train. And lots, lots more The Defiant Ones (1958). Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on February 24th, 2015 at 8:01 pm. Updated on February 24th, 2015 at 8:01 pm.

» Prison on Fire: Preacher (2002, Hong Kong)

Prison on Fire: Preacher - Michael Tiu Dai-Yue as Cheng Shing Fung

This has no connection to Prison on Fire (1987) or Prison on Fire 2 (1990) and, without putting too fine a point on it, is bland and tedious. Dull. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on February 21st, 2015 at 8:09 pm. Updated on February 21st, 2015 at 8:14 pm.

» Hold Your Man (1933, USA)

Hold Your Man - Barbara Barondess as Sadie Klein and Jean Harlow as Ruby Adams

There are plenty of films about innocent women in tough prisons. This could be about a tough, not-so-innocent woman in prison (though she is pretty much innocent of the charge that landed her in there), but it’s really about the unlikely survival of a romance between two suddenly-smitten lovers. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on February 13th, 2015 at 9:37 pm. Updated on February 13th, 2015 at 9:37 pm.

» Runaway Train (1985, USA)

Runaway Train - Jon Voigt as Oscar 'Manny' Mannheim and Edward Bunker as Jonah, with Eric Roberts as Buck McGeehy behind them

I guess I knew that this was never going to make my list of true prison movies, but I couldn’t ignore it after one of my correspondents, Peter - a man who has spent a bit of time in maximum security prisons - said of it, “The opening sequence of (the) film – the boxing scene – is easily the most authentic prison scene I have ever seen.”  On the other hand, not one of my train enthusiast readers has urged me to watch it for the authenticity of the careering train sequences. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on February 9th, 2015 at 8:53 pm. Updated on February 9th, 2015 at 8:53 pm.

» Prisoners in Petticoats (1950, USA)

Prisoners in Petticoats - Valentine Perkins as Joan Grey aka Beverly Brent (and the back of Robert Rockwell's head - as Mark Hampton)

This neat little gangster flick, full of crosses and double crosses, checks in at a lean 60 minutes. The copy I got hold of has around 12 minutes missing from it, and boasts a paltry 6 minutes and 18 seconds of prison scenes. Its title of ‘Prisoners in Petticoats’ might therefore give a slightly misleading impression of the film’s overall content. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on February 4th, 2015 at 7:57 pm. Updated on February 4th, 2015 at 7:57 pm.

» Chicken Mexicaine (2007, Switzerland)

Chicken Mexicaine - Bruno Cathomas as Roby Schmucker and Juana von Jascheroff as Dr Helen Berger

Roby Schmucker (Bruno Cathomas) has found himself back in jail, again. He is awaiting trial on a ‘heavy’ robbery, and on Day 1 in the mess room is confronted by the prison’s top dog, African-Swiss Charles ‘Chief’ Müller (Kyle Popooda). Schmucker doesn’t appreciate Müller’s welcome and makes some unkind comments about his ethnicity. It’s not received well. One of Müller’s men spits in Schmucker’s food, onto which Müller then empties an entire salt cellar. Schmucker sticks it out for another mouthful or two but then launches into a face-saving rant: “Chicken Mexicaine! This muck’s called Chicken Mexicaine!” before reminding everyone that he’s an old hand. It’s a quirky, off-beat title for one of the wackier, more off-beat prison movies. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on January 27th, 2015 at 8:38 pm. Updated on January 27th, 2015 at 8:50 pm.

» Mercenaries (2014, USA)

Mercenaries - Nicole Bilderback as Mei-Lin Fong, Kristanna Loken as Kat Morgan, Zoë Bell as Cassandra Clay, and Vivica A Fox as Raven

Oh dear. I fear that I’m becoming a little repetitive regarding these action prison movies… but this is truly lamentable. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on January 17th, 2015 at 7:31 pm. Updated on January 17th, 2015 at 7:31 pm.

» F Tipi Film (2012, Turkey)

F Tipi Film - Hüsnü Yildiz as Veli

At times the F Tipi Film resembles the many films about IRA prisoners in The Maze; the hunger strikes, the solidarity of the prisoners, their determination to communicate with each other, and the sadness of the families supporting them outside. But these prisoners are not bound by a common political ideology; they are bound by a common opposition to Turkey’s ‘F-Type’ prisons, of which solitary confinement is a feature. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on January 11th, 2015 at 9:23 am. Updated on January 11th, 2015 at 9:41 am.

» Z mrtvého domu / From the House of the Dead (2007, France)

From the House of the Dead -

You might think that I’m struggling to find new prison movies when I have to resort to watching filmed performances of operas about prison life. And you’d be right. But at least this has more prison in it than Carmen (2003). Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on January 3rd, 2015 at 8:40 pm. Updated on January 3rd, 2015 at 8:40 pm.