» Johnny Holiday (1949, USA)

Johnny Holiday - Allen Martin Jr as Johnny Holiday and William Bendix as Sgt Walker

When you learn that almost all of this film was shot at the Boys’ School of Indiana in Plainfield, and then see the Governor of Indiana, Henry F Schricker, making a guest appearance, playing himself, you know that this is going to be reasonably sympathetic to the reformatory and its correctional approach. Indeed, this is unashamedly a tribute movie - co-written by producer RW Alcorn, himself a grateful graduate of the Boys’ School who went on to make lots of money. And this film. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on September 21st, 2014 at 1:39 pm. Updated on September 21st, 2014 at 1:39 pm.

» The Guys from Paradise (2000, Japan)

The Guys from Paradise - Kôji Kikkawa as Kohei Hayasake

“Here, I don’t find any inconvenience. This is heaven, isn’t it?” says one prisoner of the Filipino jail in which he’s banged up. And it is something of a safe haven for a select few - a place where money can buy anything, where one can carry on one’s illegal activities without too much interference, and where one can hide away from one’s enemies. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on September 18th, 2014 at 9:17 pm. Updated on September 18th, 2014 at 9:17 pm.

» New Alcatraz (2001, USA)

New Alcatraz -

The ‘New Alcatraz’ is a secret supermax prison built “somewhere in Antartic (sic)” and funded by the world’s leaders to contain the world’s worst criminals…. a little like the outer space prison a decade or so later in Lockout (2012). It’s clearly a work in progress; we’re told that when it’s fully operational it will hold 25,000 inmates (so much for the fragile Antarctic ecosystems), but for the time being it is holding just six prisoners and there are just the warden, nine guards, and two engineers to look after them. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on September 16th, 2014 at 10:03 pm. Updated on September 16th, 2014 at 10:03 pm.

» Starred Up (2013, UK)

Starred Up - Jack O'Connell asEric Love

Eric Love (Jack O’Connell) is 19, ’starred up’ (transferred to adult prison prematurely from juvenile prison), and out to make a splash. On his first day he violently attacks an unsuspecting fellow prisoner, puts himself into a state of Bronson-esque arousal for the ensuing fight with prison officers and finishes up holding one officer hostage with an aerial at his throat and then gripping another’s privates between his teeth. I don’t know too many prisons that would allow him to just go back into the wing after that… even as an outcome negotiated for the officers’ release, but back to the wing he goes, the new prison Governor a little peeved that she hadn’t been advised of his arrival. It’s a mark of this film that it’s able to overcome that initial credibility gap and still be an exceptional prison movie.

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Posted on August 30th, 2014 at 4:38 pm. Updated on August 30th, 2014 at 4:38 pm.

» Circuit 2 (2003, USA)

Circuit 2 - Olivier Gruner as Dirk Longstreet aka Jim Morrison

Also known as The Circuit 2: The Final Punch. Except it’s not the final final punch - the temptation to make Circuit III being just too great. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on August 29th, 2014 at 10:00 pm. Updated on August 29th, 2014 at 10:00 pm.

» The Godless Girl (1929, USA)

The Godless Girl -

Cecil B De Mille directed this epic silent film - an unashamed advertisement for Godfulness. Not surprisingly, given its title, it features a godless girl, but it’s more about her conversion to the God-positive side, than focusing on all the nastiness and trouble that her godlessness brings. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on August 16th, 2014 at 7:07 pm. Updated on August 16th, 2014 at 9:29 pm.

» Kala Pani (1996, India)

Sazaa-E Kaala Paani - Mohanlal as Govardhan Menon

Kala Pani* is described as an ‘epic’ film. It’s a long film, at 2 hours 40 minutes. Even if you edited out the songs (which are slightly at odds with the movie’s dark themes, anyway), the choreographed, vaguely comical fight scenes and the gratuitous model photo-shoot scenes of the main character’s beautiful fiancée… it would still be long. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on August 9th, 2014 at 11:02 pm. Updated on August 9th, 2014 at 11:02 pm.

» Prison (1988, USA)

Prison - Ivan Kane as Joe 'Lasagna' Lazzaro and Viggo Mortensen as Burke

I put off watching this movie for years, thinking for some reason that - despite its title - it had not much to do with prison, a little like Ingmar Bergman’s 1949 film of the same name. That was a little foolish, in retrospect, a bit like expecting no music in The Sound of Music or no dogs in Reservoir Dogs. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on August 1st, 2014 at 9:11 pm. Updated on August 1st, 2014 at 9:11 pm.

» Instinct (1999, USA)

Instinct - Anthony Hopkins as Dr Ethan Powell and friends

It’s easy to see how this came to be conceived, with its echoes of The Silence of the Lambs (1991), One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975), and Gorillas in the Mist (1988). And it’s easy to see why it never quite reaches the heights of those movies (or at least the first two). Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on July 26th, 2014 at 11:55 pm. Updated on July 27th, 2014 at 12:02 am.

» The Daring Young Man (1935, USA)

The Daring Young Man - James Dunn as Don McLane and Warren Hymer as Pete Hogan

Scandal and the penitentiary on New York’s Welfare Island (known as Blackwell’s Island prior to 1921 and Roosevelt Island since 1971) went pretty much hand-in-hand in the 1930s. The prison was overcrowded and run by two rival gangs. Narcotics and corruption were rife. In 1932 the warden attempted to mediate a truce in his office, but it ended badly and the boss of one of the gangs was stabbed to death - leading to a riotous battle between the warring parties. The prison was described as a ‘country club for the chosen few gangsters’ and when Mayor LaGuardia’s corrections commissioner, Austin H MacCormick, raided the prison in January 1934, his officers found one mob leader, Joie Rao, occupying an entire floor in the hospital with his own staff, including a personal barber and chef, and his lieutenants able to remove their cell doors so that they were not locked in. All the prisoners were soon relocated to the new prison on Rikers Island. It’s this prison at which this comedy pokes a bit of gentle fun.

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Posted on July 18th, 2014 at 11:33 pm. Updated on July 18th, 2014 at 11:33 pm.