The Cell Mate

» Papillon (2017, USA and others)

Papillon - Rami Malek as Louis Dega and Charlie Hunnam as Henri 'Papillon' Charrière

I’m afraid I wasn’t a big fan of the first filmed version of Henri Charrière’s life story, Papillon (1973), starring Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman. I thought it tedious, and a disappointing retelling of the boisterous, if largely fanciful, written account. And I’m not all that keen to go back and revisit it to see if that judgment was a little harsh, having just watched the remake… which I think is an improvement.

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Posted on December 8th, 2018 at 8:38 pm. Updated on December 8th, 2018 at 8:46 pm.

» 死囚 / The Condemned (1976, Hong Kong)

The Condemned - Hung Tsai as Feng Da-Gang

I’d very much like to say that there was an interesting subtext to this movie; the contamination in prison of non-violent men placed with violent offenders, perhaps. But, no, this is a straightforward good guys v. bad guys story; a revenge story. With lots of fighting. Lots. But none in prison. (more…)

Posted on October 15th, 2018 at 8:33 pm. Updated on October 15th, 2018 at 8:43 pm.

» Hard Justice (1995, USA)

Hard Justice - Jim Maniaci as Mr Clean holding up David Bradley as Nick Adams, with Alon Stivi as the guard Riggs with his PR24 ('The Ugly Stick')

Back in October 2017 Alex Greenwood wrote to me to see if I could identify a movie from a grainy still he had found on the internet of a bald guy in prison fight scene. Being notoriously poor at such things (and, it turns out, not having seen the movie, or even heard of it), I was unable to assist. But Alex persisted, and persisted… and found it himself. And this is it, fighting bald guy and more.

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Posted on October 6th, 2018 at 5:34 pm. Updated on October 6th, 2018 at 5:34 pm.

» Gulag (1985, USA)

Galag - David Keith as Mickey Almon and Malcolm McDowell as 'The Englishman' Kenneth Barrington

I’ve seen a surprising number of people (OK, four, maybe) write in to movie sites asking for the name of the prison movie where an innocent American man escapes a Russian prison in a secret compartment in a truck or a train. I’m nor sure why it’s quite so forgettable or, if it is, why people later want to retrieve its name. This is the film; it’s called Gulag, and it’s a train, not a truck. (more…)

Posted on January 22nd, 2018 at 8:45 pm. Updated on January 22nd, 2018 at 8:45 pm.

» Ozzy (2016, Spain / Canada)

Ozzy - Ozzy is led into the cellblock for the first time

Ozzy isn’t quite the new Toy Story 3 (2010); it lacks much of the cleverness and multi-dimensional appeal of the earlier animated feature. But as another heart-warming movie about discarded anthropomorphic beings longing to be reunited with their families, it happily shares something of the same vibe. (more…)

Posted on September 21st, 2017 at 9:56 pm. Updated on September 21st, 2017 at 9:56 pm.

» 3 Clear Sundays (1965, UK)

3 Clear Sundays - Tony Selby as Danny Lee

Throughout this quintessentially English television play my mind kept oddly wandering back to that string of South Korean anti-capital punishment movies - like The Executioner (2009) and Harmony (2010) - often featuring kind, reformed, elderly prisoners who present no risk to the community, but who are still destined to be executed. Danny Lee (Tony Selby) is none of those things, but more like Lee Yong-gu in Miracle in Cell No. 7 (2013); an honest, loving and devoted family man, and also a gullible simpleton, around whom this appeal to the emotions in support of the abolition of capital punishment is wrapped after he too is sentenced to death. (more…)

Posted on April 16th, 2017 at 11:14 pm. Updated on April 18th, 2017 at 8:36 pm.

» The Man Who Broke 1,000 Chains (1987, USA)

The Man Who Broke 1,000 Chains - Val Kilmer as Robert Elliot Burns

We know that this is a great, real-life story. But why the need to retell it? (more…)

Posted on March 11th, 2017 at 3:49 pm. Updated on March 11th, 2017 at 3:49 pm.

» Imprisoned: Survival Guide for the Rich and Prodigal (2015, Hong Kong)

Imprisoned: Survival Guide for the Rich and Prodigal - Philip Keung as Wolfy (left), Babyjohn Choi as Roach (second from right) and Gregory Wong as Nelson Yu (at right)

You might expect a range of helpful tips in a prison survival guide. In this slightly offbeat comedy-drama, it seems that there’s just one: buy your way out of trouble. (more…)

Posted on March 6th, 2017 at 4:40 pm. Updated on March 6th, 2017 at 4:40 pm.

» Seduto alla sua destra / Black Jesus (1968, Italy)

Black Jesus - Woody Strode as Maurice Lalubi

That this follows on from my review of Strange Cargo (1940) is pure coincidence, I can assure you, but the two films’ themes are eerily similar. (more…)

Posted on February 28th, 2017 at 8:59 pm. Updated on February 28th, 2017 at 8:59 pm.

» 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.