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.
‘Downing a Duck‘, one prisoner’s written account of how to cultivate and manipulate a correctional officer to breach prison security, has seemingly been used worldwide as a training tool for new officers. Heartlock is pretty much its filmic equivalent. (more…)
Posted on February 9th, 2019 at 7:38 pm. Updated on February 9th, 2019 at 7:38 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.
I’m afraid I wasn’t a big fan of the first filmed version of Henri Charrière’s life story, Papillon (1973), starring Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman. I thought it tedious, and a disappointing retelling of the boisterous, if largely fanciful, written account. And I’m not all that keen to go back and revisit it to see if that judgment was a little harsh, having just watched the remake… which I think is an improvement.
Posted on December 8th, 2018 at 8:38 pm. Updated on December 8th, 2018 at 8:46 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.
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.
This is the first Cambodian film (let alone prison movie) I’ve seen, so this is unfamiliar territory and ‘jailbreak’ might have a different meaning to a Cambodian audience. The prisoners here riot, are liberated from their cells, kill each other, kill guards, cause mayhem… but don’t break out of the jail, unless I missed something. I’m prepared to accept that something got lost in translation. (more…)
Posted on April 25th, 2018 at 11:27 am. Updated on April 25th, 2018 at 11:27 am.
The 2008 Pakistani movie Ramchand Pakistani told the story of a Pakistani man who strayed across the Indian border chasing after his wilful son, and who was then captured, imprisoned and tortured by Indian authorities. Sarbjit tells the story of a wilfully drunken Indian man who strays across the Pakistani border and is captured, imprisoned and tortured by Pakistani authorities. For 22 years. (more…)
Posted on April 11th, 2018 at 9:26 pm. Updated on April 11th, 2018 at 9:26 pm.
As far as low budget horror films go, this one by the Quiroz Brothers is not so bad. As far as low budget death row horror films go, it is not about a death row, per se, and the term ‘horror’ doesn’t exactly fit, either. But it is decidedly, indisputably, inescapably low budget. (more…)
Posted on February 18th, 2018 at 12:37 pm. Updated on February 18th, 2018 at 12:41 pm.