The Cell Mate

» 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.

» 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.