The Strip Search

» House of Whipcord (1974, UK)

House of Whipcord - Sheila Keith as officer Walker and Penny Irving as Anne-Marie de Verney

There are private prisons, and then there are private prisons. (more…)

Posted on November 3rd, 2014 at 6:37 pm. Updated on November 5th, 2014 at 7:49 pm.

» La Révolte des Enfants / The Children’s Rebellion (1992, France)

The Children's Rebellion - Loïc Even as The Thinker and Michel Aumont as Uncle

It’s 1847, and juvenile offenders, waifs and strays are being transferred from La Roquette children’s prison in Paris to the Colonie de Grande-Île in Brittany. It’s a “Fatherly Home, not a penal colony,” insists the reform school’s idealistic warden, Monsieur Alexis (André Wilms). And to underscore the homeliness, his deputy (Michel Aumont) is required to be referred to as Uncle and all the other staff are known as Cousins. It all sounds really very jolly. (more…)

Posted on October 26th, 2014 at 3:45 pm. Updated on October 27th, 2014 at 7:50 pm.

» Son of a Gun (2014, Australia)

Son of a Gun - Ewan McGregor as Brendan Lynch

Sadly, this is a crime thriller, not a prison movie. It’s also a movie about strategy, but not as much as its laboured chess metaphor would want you to believe. It’s more of an old fashioned shoot ‘em up heist movie, with liberal doses of intrigue and black humour, and a master-apprentice theme. (more…)

Posted on October 21st, 2014 at 9:22 pm. Updated on October 21st, 2014 at 9:22 pm.

» Way Back Home (2013, South Korea)

Way Back Home - Jeon Do-yeon as Song Jeong-yeon

The South Koreans certainly love a good prison tear-jerker - Miracle in Cell No. 7 (2013), for instance, and Harmony (2010) - both of which also star young children, as does this weepy. But Way Back Home is also very reminiscent of Hell In Tangier (2006) and Left to Die (2012), both of which feature prisoners in third-world prisons overseas, hampered by inept, judgmental and disinterested embassy officials, and eventually released after persistent media campaigns. As this one does. The point of difference from the last two is that in this case the prisoner is guilty. Of stupidity, at the very least.


Posted on October 14th, 2014 at 9:30 pm. Updated on October 14th, 2014 at 9:30 pm.

» Starred Up (2013, UK)

Starred Up - Jack O'Connell asEric Love

Eric Love (Jack O’Connell) is 19, ’starred up’ (transferred to adult prison prematurely from juvenile prison), and out to make a splash. On his first day he violently attacks an unsuspecting fellow prisoner, puts himself into a state of Bronson-esque arousal for the ensuing fight with prison officers and finishes up holding one officer hostage with an aerial at his throat and then gripping another’s privates between his teeth. I don’t know too many prisons that would allow him to just go back into the wing after that… even as an outcome negotiated for the officers’ release, but back to the wing he goes, the new prison Governor a little peeved that she hadn’t been advised of his arrival. It’s a mark of this film that it’s able to overcome that initial credibility gap and still be an exceptional prison movie.


Posted on August 30th, 2014 at 4:38 pm. Updated on August 30th, 2014 at 4:38 pm.

» Prison (1988, USA)

Prison - Ivan Kane as Joe 'Lasagna' Lazzaro and Viggo Mortensen as Burke

I put off watching this movie for years, thinking for some reason that - despite its title - it had not much to do with prison, a little like Ingmar Bergman’s 1949 film of the same name. That was a little foolish, in retrospect, a bit like expecting no music in The Sound of Music or no dogs in Reservoir Dogs. (more…)

Posted on August 1st, 2014 at 9:11 pm. Updated on August 1st, 2014 at 9:11 pm.

» The King of Jail Breakers (2009, Japan)

The King of Jail Breakers - Itsuji Itao as Masayuki Suzuki

I can’t recall another prison movie in which the main character says not a word throughout the whole film. Well, not one made after 1929, anyway. (more…)

Posted on July 11th, 2014 at 8:59 pm. Updated on July 11th, 2014 at 8:59 pm.

» Jailbait (2013, USA)

Jailbait - Sara Malakul Lane as Anna Nix

There is not much that can be said for this other than that it is a singularly distasteful, exploitative film. (more…)

Posted on June 8th, 2014 at 9:41 pm. Updated on June 8th, 2014 at 9:43 pm.

» Convict (2014, Australia)

Convict - George Basha as Ray Francis

When this opened where I live, it opened, I think, for just one session in one cinema. That might say as much as needs to be said. (more…)

Posted on April 14th, 2014 at 10:56 pm. Updated on April 14th, 2014 at 10:56 pm.

» Women in Chains (1972, USA)

Women in Chains - Lois Nettleton as Sandra Parker / Sally Porter and Belinda Montgomery as Melinda Carr

This (along with several other contenders) could serve as a baseline against which all women’s prison movies are measured. It’s far from great, and far from terrible. It’s camp, but not too camp. Well, it’s over-the-top camp at times. It has a brave heroine, a particularly nasty villain, plenty of true-to-life prisoners who have no wish to fly above the radar, some drama… and, presumably because it’s made-for-TV and it’s 1972, a surfeit of beautiful women but no shower scenes, lesbian scenes, or lascivious male officers. What’s more, it stars two prison movie greats: Ida Lupino (Women’s Prison, 1955) and Barbara Luna (The Concrete Jungle, 1982). (more…)

Posted on February 4th, 2014 at 8:18 pm. Updated on February 8th, 2014 at 7:45 pm.