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. (more…)
Posted on February 15th, 2019 at 8:45 pm. Updated on February 20th, 2019 at 7:06 pm.
The problem with these hit-and-miss spoofs is, well, that they’re hit-and-miss. (more…)
Posted on January 5th, 2019 at 7:14 pm. Updated on January 12th, 2019 at 10:10 pm.
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. (more…)
Posted on December 15th, 2018 at 9:13 pm. Updated on December 15th, 2018 at 9:20 pm.
“Are we quits, now?” asks the young, first-time prisoner of the older prisoner who had earlier come to his rescue, having just paid off the first instalment (by helping tip boiling water on a debtor) in return for the big favour. “Ask me again and I’ll stamp your face into the concrete,” the older man replies. And if the younger man didn’t realise up until that point that he was trapped, he does then. (more…)
Posted on November 6th, 2018 at 7:39 pm. Updated on November 6th, 2018 at 7:39 pm.
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.
Posted on October 6th, 2018 at 5:34 pm. Updated on October 6th, 2018 at 5:34 pm.
“Please don’t let it be a cell.” So says Colin Warner on waking each day. But for 21 years, it is. And he’s innocent. (more…)
Posted on August 19th, 2018 at 8:37 pm. Updated on August 19th, 2018 at 8:39 pm.
The 2008 ‘kids for cash’ scandal in Pennsylvania’s Luzerne County resulted in two judges, Mark Ciavarella and Michael Conahan, ultimately receiving sentences of 28 and 17½ years respectively for taking kickbacks from for-profit juvenile detention centres (enhanced by giving children unnecessary or excessive sentences to prolong their stays there). Children were branded as delinquents and sent to the centres for as little as mocking an assistant principal on a MySpace page, being found in a vacant building, and cursing another child’s mother, and the case is cited as the inspiration for this movie. None of the affected children, to my knowledge, were champion archers… but there were several thousand victims, so there could well have been champion archers, philatelists, lacrosse players, trichologists and kids whose other skills withered as they endured unnecessary spells in custody. (more…)
Posted on June 14th, 2018 at 8:58 pm. Updated on June 14th, 2018 at 8:58 pm.
Advertised as a comedy-drama, this has all the drama and comedy of a shrug. But it’s delightful. (more…)
Posted on May 22nd, 2018 at 8:42 pm. Updated on May 22nd, 2018 at 8:42 pm.
Chess. It features in so many prison films, and I’m never sure if it hearkens back to a time before TVs were allowed in prisons and prisoners were assiduous chess players, or whether it is just filmmakers’ code - a lazy shorthand way of telling the audience that this person is a master strategist. That said, only a week or so ago I visited a juvenile prison where several young Aboriginal boys were huddled around a chess board, and another giant chess set adorned the yard; maybe it’s making a comeback. In any event, there’s no chess played here, in this film. (more…)
Posted on May 14th, 2018 at 8:58 pm. Updated on May 14th, 2018 at 9:08 pm.
‘Five star’ is an ironic reference to the Pretoria prison in which this film, and before it the mid-’80s, escape-filled, 14-part Vysfter TV mini-series, is set. Vyfster: Die Slot takes up, apparently, from where the mini-series rather abruptly left off. (more…)
Posted on April 30th, 2018 at 9:20 pm. Updated on April 30th, 2018 at 9:20 pm.