For starters, I’m not sure why this horror movie is called The Chair. Yes, there is an electric chair, but it doesn’t make an appearance until the last few minutes of the film, and it doesn’t even loom large over the preceding action. It’s a little like calling The Shawshank Redemption ‘The Beach.’ (more…)
Posted on November 25th, 2017 at 9:13 pm. Updated on November 25th, 2017 at 9:13 pm.
A young kid with a bit of potential but a tough upbringing starts up a criminal gang with three of his mates. Much later, in his late teenage years, he (with another of his gang) is caught red-handed inside a shop they are burgling; he gets two years in prison, plus six cuts with a heavy cane. He survives by reading and writing letters and telling stories. His mate is not so lucky; he is repeatedly raped and becomes a gang leader’s wyfie (woman). After his release the young man’s fortuitous pursuit of a romantic interest narrowly saves him from joining his other three gang members in a criminal exploit that goes horribly wrong. The others nonetheless elect him as the fall guy, but once the trial begins they belatedly, and ruefully, admit that he wasn’t there. They hang. He doesn’t. It’s a story that takes almost 2½ hours to tell. (more…)
Posted on November 16th, 2017 at 9:22 pm. Updated on November 16th, 2017 at 9:22 pm.
‘Bespredel’ in Russian would seem to mean ‘lawlessness’… but also ‘limitless’ or ‘anything goes’. “What is [bespredel]?” the prison’s top bespredelshchik and string-puller, The Prince, is asked. “[Bespredel] is a trap,” he replies. I hope that helps. (more…)
Posted on November 6th, 2017 at 9:13 pm. Updated on November 7th, 2017 at 4:35 pm.
I can be a wee bit mistrustful, I know. As soon as I finished watching this movie, based on the life of Yevgenia (or Eugenia) Ginzburg, I sought out her true life story to see if it matched the film version. There are some differences between the two, it seems, and some of which I get; after all, you want people to watch the movie. (more…)
Posted on October 9th, 2017 at 9:12 pm. Updated on October 9th, 2017 at 9:12 pm.
Pixote: A Lei do Mais Fraco (’the law of the weakest’) is celebrated for (or rather enjoys a reputation for) its unrelenting grimness. And for good reason. If you looked in the dictionary and it said: grĭm a. harsh, joyless, pixotish - you probably wouldn’t baulk… provided that you didn’t know that Pixote is sometimes translated as PeeWee, which doesn’t sound quite so grim.
Posted on October 5th, 2017 at 8:19 pm. Updated on October 5th, 2017 at 8:19 pm.
‘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.
Posted on August 12th, 2017 at 8:55 pm. Updated on August 12th, 2017 at 9:07 pm.
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.
Don’t be fooled. Although this is set in a gulag, it’s far from a movie about prison life, or labour camp life. It’s a film about one man’s passion for trains - steam trains, with a touch of romance thrown in. And a bit of concussion. ‘Concussion’ in the broadest sense imaginable, so that at times it is used interchangeably with shell shock. (more…)
Posted on December 8th, 2016 at 8:26 pm. Updated on December 8th, 2016 at 8:28 pm.
“I never realised how much I took freedom for granted until it was taken away.” So says ex-cop, ex-prisoner and narrator Gillian Kaites (Melanie Coll), explaining her lust for freedom. Don’t expect anything deeper. (more…)
Posted on November 1st, 2016 at 9:45 am. Updated on November 1st, 2016 at 11:02 am.
Inside the first 20-odd minutes one prisoner gets shot dead after holding a toy gun at a guard who was about to rape her, a prisoner with whom the Warden is having a sexual relationship is killed by other prisoners for being a snitch, an African-American prisoner is sliced up by prisoners in an all-white cellblock, and the Warden and Guard Captain are separately implicated in corrupt drug activity. And there’s a shower scene. This film is not afraid of action. Or cliché. Or exploitation. (more…)
Posted on October 16th, 2016 at 2:19 pm. Updated on October 16th, 2016 at 2:19 pm.