The Cell Mate

» Passport to Terror (1989, USA)

Passport to Terror - Lee Remick as Gene LePere

Also known as Dark Holiday, this film about an American woman in a Turkish prison invites inevitable comparisons with Midnight Express (1978). But it being about an American held in a Turkish prison is where the similarities begin and end. (more…)

Posted on January 22nd, 2017 at 2:41 pm. Updated on January 22nd, 2017 at 2:41 pm.

» Vortex (2001, Germany)

Vortex - Arne Fuhrmann as Boon and Vincent Xzedden

According to my DVD player, Vortex is just under 47 minutes long. It is a model of German efficiency; neat, compact, not too showy, solidly constructed. The Volkswagen Golf of sci-fi prison films. But with a few disconcerting surprises, like finding a stranger’s underwear wedged between the seats. (more…)

Posted on November 12th, 2016 at 6:28 pm. Updated on November 12th, 2016 at 6:28 pm.

» Cellblock Sisters: Banished Behind Bars (1995, USA)

Cellblock Sisters: Banished Behind Bars - Gail Harris as May and Annie Wood as April Conner

May Conner (Gail Harris) is 19* and in prison. She’s a Miss Goody Two-Shoes… a little naive when it comes to crime and punishment, and is unused to prison lingo. “They found a second set of finger things.” “Prints,” says her street-wise older sister, April (Annie Wood). “Prints, right.” (more…)

Posted on May 16th, 2016 at 9:59 pm. Updated on July 9th, 2016 at 6:13 pm.

» Vendetta (1986, USA)

Vendetta - Karen Chase as Laurie Collins, with a wrist lock on Kay Butler (Sandy Martin)

Vendetta has all the standard ’80s trademarks you’d expect - prisoners with big hair and wearing workout gear like they’d just stepped out of a Flashdance or Let’s Get Physical video - but no-one (at least in prison) seems to be held accountable for much. Wasn’t glasnost an ’80s thing? (more…)

Posted on March 21st, 2016 at 8:00 pm. Updated on March 21st, 2016 at 8:00 pm.

» Jailbird Rock (1988, USA / Argentina)

Jailbird Rock - Robin Antin as Jessie White and Robin x as Echo

I think it was when Warden Harold Bauman (Ron Lacey), in dismissing any idea of his prisoners putting on an artistic performance, said, “They’re not here to have fun. They’re here to be miserable,” that my wife asked, “Don’t you get sick of the same, same things all the time?”. Or it could have been earlier, such as at the arrival of the prisoner who doesn’t deserve to be in prison, or the tough prisoner running the show, or the ineffectual warden and his corrupt second-in-charge, or the earnest counsellor pushing for reform… It could have been at any point in the film, really. (more…)

Posted on November 22nd, 2015 at 5:10 pm. Updated on November 22nd, 2015 at 5:12 pm.

» Vendetta (2015, USA)

Vendetta - Dean Cain as Mason Danvers and Paul 'The Big Show' Wight as Victor Abbott

I feel for Dean Cain. I’m sure he wants to play serious prison roles, but in Dogboys (1998) he got to play an ex-Marine fighting killer prison dogs, and in New Alcatraz (2001) he had to play a palaeontologist fighting a giant prehistoric prison snake. Here he gets to play an ex-cop fighting a killer prison giant. (more…)

Posted on September 28th, 2015 at 9:47 pm. Updated on September 28th, 2015 at 9:49 pm.

» Révolte dans la prison / Big House (1931, France / USA)

Big House - Charles Boyer as John Morgan and Andre Berley as Butch

Some films are remakes of originals. But from the pre-subtitles era, this French-language version of the classic The Big House (1930) is not just a remake, but the same film, shot-for-shot, with French actors substituted for American. Well, not exactly shot-for-shot; in one of the last scenes, John Morgan (Charles Boyer) has his right arm in a sling, while in the American version (and, for that matter, the Spanish-language version, El Presidio), it’s on his left. Mind you, in the very final scene (taken straight from the original US version) Morgan’s sling has dramatically switched sides. I’m not sure which side is preferred in the German version, Menschen hinter Gittern.

(more…)

Posted on September 19th, 2015 at 10:07 pm. Updated on September 23rd, 2015 at 10:07 pm.

» Rise (2014, Australia)

Rise - Nathan Wilson as Will McIntyre and Martin Sacks as Jimmy Cove

You know how sometimes one scene or one line in a movie just loses you, and you can’t find a way back in? Early in Rise nurse Will McIntyre (Nathan Wilson) is falsely accused of spiking the drink of and then raping a girl with whom he has had a one night stand. At his trial, the prosecutor asks the victim to tell the court what happened next. Falteringly, she begins with, “He had my arms pressed under…” and McIntyre’s barrister jumps up and interjects, “Your Honour, this is all hearsay evidence!” Eh? Really? (more…)

Posted on July 19th, 2015 at 1:38 pm. Updated on July 19th, 2015 at 1:42 pm.

» Shadow: Dead Riot (2006, USA)

Shadow: Dead Riot -

Shadow: Dead Riot appears to be based on a premise that the same sort of people who watch salacious Women-in-Prison films with shower scenes and predatory lesbian guards will also like zombies and gore and exploding body parts. It’s probably solid thinking from a marketing perspective, but the two elements here have rather clumsily been patched together. (more…)

Posted on June 28th, 2015 at 1:34 pm. Updated on June 28th, 2015 at 1:34 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. (more…)

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