» American Violet (2008, USA)

American Violet - Nicole Beharie as Dee Roberts

By some coincidence, when I watched this I was midway through reading Shane Bauer’s American Prison: A Reporter’s Undercover Journey into the Business of Punishment, which examines (amongst many other things) the history of commercial interests in the US driving the incarceration of African Americans. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on December 30th, 2018 at 10:38 am. Updated on December 30th, 2018 at 10:38 am.

» Escape from DS-3 (1981, USA)

Escape from DS-3 - Jackson Bostwick as Andy Lavette and Michael Gregory as one of the guards

Before Fortress (1992) and its famous intestinator was this low budget flick, set in 2045 and boasting a very similar device: a ID transmitter/receiver inserted into the pulmonary plexus that not only tracks prisoners’ whereabouts, but allows guards to remotely cause pain to any part of a prisoner’s body (teeth, stomach etc), simply by choosing the relevant button on the remote control. Other than that - and the satellite prison’s sex droids (robots known as ‘pen pals’ which provide sexual favours to the well-behaved prisoners) - it is a pretty standard escape movie. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on December 23rd, 2018 at 11:35 am. Updated on December 23rd, 2018 at 11:41 am.

» Purgatory (1988, South Africa)

Purgatory - Tanya Roberts as Carly Arnold on discovering her best friend Melanie hanging

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. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on December 15th, 2018 at 9:13 pm. Updated on December 15th, 2018 at 9:20 pm.

» Papillon (2017, USA and others)

Papillon - Rami Malek as Louis Dega and Charlie Hunnam as Henri 'Papillon' Charrière

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on December 8th, 2018 at 8:38 pm. Updated on December 8th, 2018 at 8:46 pm.

» Picco (2010, Germany)

Picco -

They have been making prison movies for a little more than 100 years. But I reckon that it’s only in the last decade that humiliation porn prison films like Stoic (2009), Boys Behinds Bars (2013) and this one have taken hold and found a market. It’s a little depressing. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on December 3rd, 2018 at 7:46 pm. Updated on December 3rd, 2018 at 7:57 pm.

» Love Me Still (2008, UK)

Love Me Still - Andrew Howard as Mickey Ronson, on release from prison

What’s the moral we’re supposed to take from this story? Don’t keep the date on which you’re to be released from prison a secret from your wife? Don’t become a drug runner for your abominable brother-in-law? I have no idea, really. But I’m certain there’s a moral in there somewhere. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on November 16th, 2018 at 8:49 pm. Updated on November 16th, 2018 at 8:50 pm.

» Michael Inside (2017, Ireland)

Michael Inside - Dafhyd Flynn as Michael McCrea

“Are we quits, now?” asks the young, first-time prisoner of the older prisoner who had earlier come to his rescue, having just paid off the first instalment (by helping tip boiling water on a debtor) in return for the big favour. “Ask me again and I’ll stamp your face into the concrete,” the older man replies. And if the younger man didn’t realise up until that point that he was trapped, he does then. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on November 6th, 2018 at 7:39 pm. Updated on November 6th, 2018 at 7:39 pm.

» The Honor System (1917, USA)

The Honor System - Milton Sills as Joseph Stanton and Miriam Cooper as Edith

I haven’t seen this silent movie. I’m old, but not quite that old, and the film is now believed to be lost (though not, perhaps, in the 1937 Fox archive fire). The number of people who have seen it, you would think, is declining. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on November 2nd, 2018 at 8:53 pm. Updated on November 2nd, 2018 at 8:53 pm.

» 死囚 / The Condemned (1976, Hong Kong)

The Condemned - Hung Tsai as Feng Da-Gang

I’d very much like to say that there was an interesting subtext to this movie; the contamination in prison of non-violent men placed with violent offenders, perhaps. But, no, this is a straightforward good guys v. bad guys story; a revenge story. With lots of fighting. Lots. But none in prison. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on October 15th, 2018 at 8:33 pm. Updated on October 15th, 2018 at 8:43 pm.

» Verfehlung / The Culpable (2015, Germany)

Verfehlung - Sebastian Bloomberg as Fr Jakob Völz and as Fr Dominik Bertram

Three priests walk into a bar. They have been friends for years, and celebrate over a few drinks; Fr Oliver Grondek (Jan Messutat) has been newly promoted into a senior role within the church. Fr Jakob Völz (Sebastian Blomberg) is a prison chaplain, but is promised a more prominent role as Oliver’s ‘city deacon’. And Fr Dominik Bertram (Kai Schumann) is soon to be taken off for questioning in relation to sexual offences against an adolescent boy, Mike, the only child of a single mum and in whom he has taken a special interest through the parish Youth Club he runs. As this is a film that critically examines the Catholic Church’s treatment of its paedophile priests, the punchline is that Fr Dominik is not disbarred. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on October 10th, 2018 at 8:53 pm. Updated on October 10th, 2018 at 9:02 pm.