The Mess Hall

» A Prayer Before Dawn (2017, France / UK)

A Prayer Before Dawn - Joe Cole as Billy Moore

‘Locked up in a Turkish prison’ has been the most reliable shorthand description of the horror of being a foreigner locked up abroad (or of any worst imaginable horror, really), probably since Midnight Express (1978). But the ordeal of Briton Billy Moore in A Prayer Before Dawn might have a few people viewing Thai prisons as the new high water mark. Or low water mark.

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Posted on August 12th, 2017 at 8:55 pm. Updated on August 12th, 2017 at 9:07 pm.

» Star Slammer (1986, USA)

Star Slammer - Suzy Stokey as Mike and Sandy Brooke as Taura

You have to feel for the prison ship’s newest prisoner, Taura (Sandy Brooke). Not only is she (vaguely) innocent, but she has to wear a different, more revealing uniform to every other prisoner and sport a horrible ’80s perm. Mind you, she’s not on her Pat Malone on that last count. (more…)

Posted on August 4th, 2017 at 9:23 pm. Updated on August 4th, 2017 at 9:31 pm.

» Alien 3 (1992, USA)

Alien 3 - Sigourney Weaver as Lt Ellen Ripley

By chance, an article appeared in my Saturday paper about Sigourney Weaver and the strong women she has played. It drove me to rescue Alien 3 from a stack of unwatched DVDs, where it had languished for many years, and finally check it out. (more…)

Posted on July 18th, 2017 at 9:54 pm. Updated on July 18th, 2017 at 9:54 pm.

» From the Queen to the Chief Executive (2001, Hong Kong)

From the Queen to the Chief Executive - David Li as Cheung Yau Ming

With Hong Kong’s approaching transition from British sovereignty to that of the People’s Republic of China providing an intriguing backdrop, this is an oddly dispassionate film highlighting the plight of 23 juvenile offenders sentenced to be held at Her Majesty’s Pleasure. They are serious offenders who would rather a definite sentence - and a release date - than the uncertainty as to when the Government might choose to release them, and the attendant fear that they might ultimately be treated more harshly than adults under the same circumstances. And they worry whether the elected Chief Executive in the new special administrative region of China will be less benevolent than his British predecessor, Governor Chris Patten, so they push for a decision prior to 1 July 1997. (more…)

Posted on June 30th, 2017 at 11:05 pm. Updated on June 30th, 2017 at 11:05 pm.

» Tomorrow La Scala! (2002, UK)

Tomorrow La Scala! - Jessica Stevenson as the director, Victoria

Who would think that getting a bunch of murderers involved in a prison production of Sondheim’s musical adaptation of Sweeney Todd - the vengeful, serial murdering barber - would be a good idea? Why not get the local chapter of Sexaholics Anonymous to make up the chorus of Don Giovanni as well? But not only is this the basis of this BBC production, it appears - extraordinarily - that it was inspired by just such a production in which its director, Francesca Joseph, was involved. (more…)

Posted on June 22nd, 2017 at 10:01 pm. Updated on July 17th, 2017 at 10:20 pm.

» Moron 5 and the Crying Lady (2012, Philippines)

Moron 5 and the Crying Lady -

It’s a colossal problem for one-joke comedies when the one joke is not not particularly funny. (more…)

Posted on June 11th, 2017 at 8:53 pm. Updated on June 11th, 2017 at 9:13 pm.

» Mean Frank and Crazy Tony (1973, Italy)

Mean Frank and Crazy Tony - Tony Lo Bianco as Tony Breda and Lee Van Cleef as Frankie Diomede

This is also known as Escape from Death Row, but why, I’m not sure. For starters, there is no Death Row, and secondly, why would you even bother to seek an alternative title to Mean Frank and Crazy Tony, for goodness’ sake? (more…)

Posted on May 17th, 2017 at 9:33 pm. Updated on July 30th, 2017 at 1:02 pm.

» Millionaires in Prison (1940, USA)

Millionaires in Prison - Chester Clute as Sidney Keats and Raymond Walburn as Bruce Vander.. unable to conceal their reaction to the food

How do five millionaires behave when they land in prison at the same time? “I see no reason why the Warden should object to uniforms by our own tailor,” moans Harold Kellogg (Thurston Hall), pulling at his ready-made prison uniform. “.. No style, poor material and probably even secondhand,” whines his partner-in-crime, Bruce Vander (Raymond Walburn), in total agreement. And there are plenty more jolly japes as the rich newcomers turn up their noses at the prison food and bunk beds, have to do manual labour… and mix with poor people. (more…)

Posted on May 4th, 2017 at 10:30 pm. Updated on May 4th, 2017 at 10:30 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.