» Krotkaya / A Gentle Creature (2017, Russia / France and others)

A Gentle Creature - Visilina Makovtseva as the gentle creature

I knew this wasn’t a fair dinkum prison movie, but I thought it might contain some interesting observations about prisons; I’d read that it was about a woman in a small Russian village whose parcel sent to her imprisoned husband is returned without any explanation, and she sets out to learn why: a prison conspiracy, perhaps? It transpires that her cheerless search for the truth provides a very dark commentary on life in Russia, and a bit, but not so much, about prison. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on February 20th, 2019 at 7:23 pm. Updated on February 20th, 2019 at 7:23 pm.

» 死亡監獄 / The Jail of No Return (1994, Hong Kong)

The Jail of No Return - Little Blackness on the bamboo bed

At first blush, this is a wacky story of an island prison somewhere in Asia, ruled by a maniacal American, and featuring much creative brutality and some innovative implements of torture; the sort of film to which adolescents might be attracted.  It was a bit of a surprise to learn later that it is based on a true story from the 1960s: that of the experimental penal colony Pulau Senang, just off the coast of Singapore, and the riot which led to its closure.  Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on February 15th, 2019 at 8:45 pm. Updated on February 20th, 2019 at 7:06 pm.

» Heartlock (2018, USA)

Heartlock - Lesley-Ann Brandt as Tera Sharpe and Alexander Dreymon as Lee Haze

Downing a Duck‘, one prisoner’s written account of how to cultivate and manipulate a correctional officer to breach prison security, has seemingly been used worldwide as a training tool for new officers. Heartlock is pretty much its filmic equivalent. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on February 9th, 2019 at 7:38 pm. Updated on February 9th, 2019 at 7:38 pm.

» Joshila (1973, India)

Joshila - Dev Anand (holding rifle) as Amar Kumar, and to his left, in his dressing gown, is Manmohan Krishan as the Jailor

Many of the synopses of this film suggest that it is about a poetry-loving jailor’s daughter who falls in love with a prisoner. It’s not. Shalini (Hema Malini) has a classmate whose father is the Jailor of Delhi’s Central Jail, and she spends a holiday with her friend, living inside the jail. The Jailor (Manmohan Krishan) allows her to roam freely around the jail, and in the quarry where the prisoners work, unaccompanied… and it’s there that she meets Amar Kumar (Dev Anand), an electrical engineer with a taste for poetry. And falls for him. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on January 28th, 2019 at 4:59 pm. Updated on January 28th, 2019 at 4:59 pm.

» La noche de 12 años / A Twelve-Year Night (2018, Uruguay and others)

A Twelve-Year Night -

The Variety interviewer tosses director Álvaro Brechner a helpful prompt: “It’s not a prison movie…” “No, it’s not,” he agrees. “Two things are always present in a prison movie: the intent of escape; the recreation of a micro-society within the penitentiary. None of this happens here. It’s a film about descent into the depths of inner hell.” Señor Brechner and I might differ on what constitutes a prison movie, but I can see why he would see it as a film about descent into the depths of inner hell. Indeed, it would be a show of rudeness (and folly, really) to contradict him on what his film is about, but I reckon it’s even more about survival and resilience. And triumph.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on January 23rd, 2019 at 8:44 pm. Updated on January 23rd, 2019 at 8:52 pm.

» Absolute Aggression (1996, USA)

absolute-0

It’s the future: 2011. Back in 2002 out of control tax rates had triggered a Depression, with half the population forced out of work. In response to soaring crime rates and civil unrest Congress made new offences (such as gun ownership, ho ho, tax evasion and speech code violations) capital crimes, alongside murder and treason. Smoking has become an offence against the Clean Air, Clean Minds Act (2005) and carries a minimum one-year term. And the execution of all the new Death Row inhabitants has become a mass entertainment commodity in a privatized Virtual Reality prison system. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on January 12th, 2019 at 10:08 pm. Updated on January 12th, 2019 at 10:08 pm.

» Prison-A-Go-Go! (2003, USA)

Prison-A-Go-Go! - Laurie Walton as Janie, and the shower scene countdown clock

The problem with these hit-and-miss spoofs is, well, that they’re hit-and-miss. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on January 5th, 2019 at 7:14 pm. Updated on January 12th, 2019 at 10:10 pm.

» American Violet (2008, USA)

American Violet - Nicole Beharie as Dee Roberts

By some coincidence, when I watched this I was midway through reading Shane Bauer’s American Prison: A Reporter’s Undercover Journey into the Business of Punishment, which examines (amongst many other things) the history of commercial interests in the US driving the incarceration of African Americans. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on December 30th, 2018 at 10:38 am. Updated on December 30th, 2018 at 10:38 am.

» Escape from DS-3 (1981, USA)

Escape from DS-3 - Jackson Bostwick as Andy Lavette and Michael Gregory as one of the guards

Before Fortress (1992) and its famous intestinator was this low budget flick, set in 2045 and boasting a very similar device: a ID transmitter/receiver inserted into the pulmonary plexus that not only tracks prisoners’ whereabouts, but allows guards to remotely cause pain to any part of a prisoner’s body (teeth, stomach etc), simply by choosing the relevant button on the remote control. Other than that - and the satellite prison’s sex droids (robots known as ‘pen pals’ which provide sexual favours to the well-behaved prisoners) - it is a pretty standard escape movie. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on December 23rd, 2018 at 11:35 am. Updated on December 23rd, 2018 at 11:41 am.

» Purgatory (1988, South Africa)

Purgatory - Tanya Roberts as Carly Arnold on discovering her best friend Melanie hanging

A “combination of commercialism and penal reform” is how prison Warden Bledsoe (Hal Orlandini) describes the “unique experiment” that is his women’s prison’s operating model. It’s not unique, one suspects, and it’s not penal reform, but it is commercial: the renting out of its prettier prisoners at the local bordello. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on December 15th, 2018 at 9:13 pm. Updated on December 15th, 2018 at 9:20 pm.