» Край / The Edge (2010, Russia)

The Edge - Ignat (Vladimir Mashkov)

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. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on December 8th, 2016 at 8:26 pm. Updated on December 8th, 2016 at 8:28 pm.

» Samar (1962, USA)

Samar - George Montgomery as Dr John David Saunders

Oh dear. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on November 27th, 2016 at 12:16 pm. Updated on November 27th, 2016 at 12:23 pm.

» Vortex (2001, Germany)

Vortex - Arne Fuhrmann as Boon and Vincent Xzedden

According to my DVD player, Vortex is just under 47 minutes long. It is a model of German efficiency; neat, compact, not too showy, solidly constructed. The Volkswagen Golf of sci-fi prison films. But with a few disconcerting surprises, like finding a stranger’s underwear wedged between the seats. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on November 12th, 2016 at 6:28 pm. Updated on November 12th, 2016 at 6:28 pm.

» O Şimdi Mahkum / In the Jail Now (2005, Turkey)

O Şimdi Mahkum - Burhan Öçal as Numan Kolsuz holds a knife to the throat of Levent Kazak (as himself). Gökhan Özoğuz (as himself) is at top right.

Most prison comedies don’t work. This one does. It features an unexpected, slow descent into farce; it’s clever, and it’s black. It’s not entirely novel - it’s a variation on the theme of Two Way Stretch (1960) - a criminal breaking out of prison to do no good, only to break back in and give himself the perfect alibi - but is refreshingly different.

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Posted on November 5th, 2016 at 8:20 pm. Updated on November 5th, 2016 at 8:31 pm.

» Lust for Freedom (1987, USA)

Lust for Freedom - Judi Trevor as Ms Pusker, William J Kulzer as Sheriff Coale and Melanie Coll as Gillian Kaites

“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. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on November 1st, 2016 at 9:45 am. Updated on November 1st, 2016 at 11:02 am.

» Chained Heat (1983, USA)

Chained Heat - Sybil Danning as Ericka and Linda Blair as Carol Henderson

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. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on October 16th, 2016 at 2:19 pm. Updated on October 16th, 2016 at 2:19 pm.

» Angry Planet (2009, USA)

Angry Planet - Daryl Boling as Elias West

Welcome to Necrosis 6, a penitentiary planet incorporating the first ‘pharma-prison’. The planet has eight suns, we’re told, which ensures that it never gets dark (and is the reason, presumably, why much of the film was shot using an irritating yellow filter). Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on October 9th, 2016 at 8:27 pm. Updated on October 9th, 2016 at 8:29 pm.

» Fiore (2016, Italy)

Fiore - Daphne Scoccia as Daphne Bonori, with Josh in his cell in the background

Director Claudio Giovannesi taught at the Casal del Marmo juvenile detention facility in Rome for a number of months in order to get a better appreciation of the centre and its inhabitants. It paid off. This is a finely observed, stripped down, silence-rich portrait of an incarcerated young woman, and of her budding romance with a young man who is held in the male section of the same facility.

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Posted on October 4th, 2016 at 9:24 pm. Updated on October 4th, 2016 at 9:24 pm.

» The Expert (1995, USA)

The Expert - Michael Shaner as Martin Kagan, holding Assistant Warden Dr Alice Barnes (Alex Datcher) hostage

OK. So this bloke, John Lomax (Jeff Speakman), is not happy. Outraged, in fact, and seeking revenge and justice, in that order. He breaks into the Westgate Penitentiary in Tennessee*, to kill Martin Kagan (Michael Shaner), the psychopathic murderer of his sister, Jenny. Kagan has maintained that it was one of his multiple personalities who killed her, not him, and inexplicably he is supported in this by Westgate’s new Assistant Warden, psychologist Dr Alice Barnes (Alex Datcher), who has recently petitioned the Governor to move the resentenced Kagan off Death Row and into a new prototype rehab program for the criminally insane, The Saddle Horse, where he will talk to schoolchildren about stuff. But it just so happens that Lomax’s break-in coincides with a small emergency in the prison, from which nearly all the prisoners have been transferred to a newer prison, and in which Kagan has taken Dr Barnes hostage, shot and killed Warden Munsey (James Brolin) with his own gun, killed several other guards, and has freed all but one of the other condemned men from their cells. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on September 26th, 2016 at 6:00 pm. Updated on September 26th, 2016 at 6:00 pm.

» True Story (2015, USA)

True Story - Jonah Hill as Michael Finkel and James Franco as Christian Longo

This is a long way from being a prison movie, even though many of its key moments occur in prison. Or more specifically, in two visit rooms in two prisons. And involving just one prisoner. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on September 18th, 2016 at 12:45 pm. Updated on September 18th, 2016 at 12:53 pm.