The Welcome Speech

» The Stanford Prison Experiment (2015, USA)

The Stanford Prison Experiment - Michael Angarano as 'guard' Christopher 'John Wayne' Archer and 'prisoners'

I’m not aware of any other psychology experiment that has spawned three films; I don’t think that poor Ivan Pavlov can boast even one movie, notwithstanding Pavlov’s Dog (2005). And I’m not sure why, after two perfectly sound movies in Das Experiment (2001) and The Experiment (2010), it was seen to be worthwhile to make yet another film based on Dr Philip Zimbardo’s famous 1971 experiment examining the psychology of prison - its impact on prisoners and guards. (more…)

Posted on March 28th, 2016 at 11:59 am. Updated on March 28th, 2016 at 11:59 am.

» 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.

» Toy Story 3 (2010, USA)

Toy Story 3

I’d seen several ‘top prison movie’ lists that include Toy Story 3, but was a little dubious. I’d imagined toys escaping from a toy box and had guessed it was a very long bow to liken it to a prison breakout… a bit like trying to draw an analogy between the whale in Free Willy and a prisoner’s quest for freedom. But I was wrong; a prison escape (of sorts) it is. (more…)

Posted on March 9th, 2016 at 11:23 am. Updated on March 9th, 2016 at 11:29 am.

» No Escape (1994, USA)

No Escape - Ray Liotta as Captain John T Robbins

It’s the underpinning socio-ethical positions here that I find even harder to fathom than the whole action-movie-implausibility thing. Which is saying something. (more…)

Posted on February 22nd, 2016 at 2:02 pm. Updated on February 22nd, 2016 at 2:02 pm.

» The Chair (1988, USA)

The Chair - Paul Benedict as Warden Edward Dwyer, Gary McCleery as inmate Rick Donner, and Mike Starr as guard Wilson

A warden with a past he’d rather forget. An idealistic psychiatrist running a new psycho-support program for prisoners. A prison not fit to house prisoners. A wrathful ghost of a former warden. And a film that mixes comedy and horror, but misses the mark on both counts… while remaining sort of amiable. (more…)

Posted on February 15th, 2016 at 1:12 pm. Updated on February 15th, 2016 at 1:25 pm.

» Road to the Big House (1947, USA)

Road to the Big House - Guinn Williams as Butch McQuinn and John Shelton as Eddie Clark

There were several disappointments in this for me. The first (bearing no reflection on the film), was that the disc I watched skipped and stumbled and distorted and froze for much of the second half, so I think I may have missed a few key moments. Thankfully, there were too few prison scenes to make that a major disaster. That there were too few prison scenes to make that a major disaster was a disappointment. (more…)

Posted on January 25th, 2016 at 8:54 pm. Updated on January 25th, 2016 at 8:54 pm.

» Turkey Shoot (1982, Australia)

Turkey Shoot - Steve Railsback as Paul Anders and Olivia Hussey as Chris Walters

It’s a few years into the future. The Government is rounding up all its deviates in the community (people who don’t submit with abject obedience to its rules and standards), and putting them in prison camps for re-education and behaviour modification. A little reminiscent of the early 1940s, you’d think. (more…)

Posted on December 19th, 2015 at 7:50 pm. Updated on December 19th, 2015 at 7:50 pm.

» Chain Gang (1984, USA)

Chain Gang - Earl Owensby as Edward Ray 'Mac' McPherson and Don Law as Warden Harry Bates

This is another Earl Owensby vehicle, following on from Buckstone County Prison [aka Seabo] (1978) - both produced by and starring Owensby as a strong, silent-type prisoner in movies that pay homage to Cool Hand Luke (1967). Without the charisma. (more…)

Posted on December 10th, 2015 at 8:31 pm. Updated on December 10th, 2015 at 8:31 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.

» A Warden’s Ransom (2014, Canada)

A Warden's Ransom - Diane Neal as Warden Samantha Brandtt and Tom Anniko as Head Guard Davis

Roundwood Prison’s Warden, Samantha Brandtt (Diane Neal) has a lot going for her. She is smart, attractive, compassionate, forthright, tough, an exceptional prison administrator and a highly skilled hand-to-hand combatant. But her 16-year-old daughter Kit (Jodelle Ferland) resents her success and blames her job for the break-up of her parents’ marriage. Oh, and her staff are almost uniformly corruptible and cognitively deficient. (more…)

Posted on November 8th, 2015 at 3:34 pm. Updated on November 8th, 2015 at 3:36 pm.