» Just Us (1986, Australia)

Just Us - Scott Burgess as Billy Carter and Catherine McClements as Jessica Taylor

The daughter of a professor, Gabrielle Carey rose to fame as a 20-year-old when her autobiographical teenage surfie-girl novel, Puberty Blues, co-written with her best friend, Kathy Lette, was published in 1979. Within a few short years Carey and Lette had fallen out and had nothing to do with each other. Lette’s life trajectory was somewhat different to Carey’s; she was later to become rich and even more famous after marrying high-flying barrister and TV personality Geoffrey Robertson QC (whom she met in 1988), while Carey’s identification with the underdog was cemented when she visited Parramatta Gaol as a reporter in June 1979 and promptly fell in love with prisoner Terry Haley. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on April 9th, 2017 at 6:13 pm. Updated on April 9th, 2017 at 6:13 pm.

» El Prisionero 13 / Prisoner 13 (1933, Mexico)

Prisoner 13 - Alfredo del Diestro as Colonel Julian Carrasco, with Adela Siguerio as his ex-wife Marta at far left

“Then I woke up, and it was all a dream.” Or, in this case, an alcoholic stupor. It’s not clear what possessed director Fernando de Fuentes to settle on such a lame contrivance with which to end this film - an irresistible regression to childhood, perhaps, or a fear (more than ten years after the Mexican Revolution had just about petered out) that the army or their political masters would still take issue with him portraying them as corrupt… Either way, it’s an irksome way for the film, reputed to be the first major Mexican movie, to conclude. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on April 4th, 2017 at 8:41 pm. Updated on April 4th, 2017 at 8:49 pm.

» Prison Shadows (1936, USA)

Prison Shadows - Eddie Nugent as Gene 'Kid' Harris, fighting in prison

I avoided this film for years, supposing that it had too little prison in it. And I was right to do so. Notwithstanding any inferences you might draw from the film’s title, the prison scenes are all over six minutes into the movie (of which fight scenes account for two, and a vaguely - and presumably unintentionally - homoerotic scene involving a boxer, his trainer and some rubbing alcohol in their cell account for another three). Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on March 25th, 2017 at 10:35 pm. Updated on March 25th, 2017 at 10:35 pm.

» The Man Who Broke 1,000 Chains (1987, USA)

The Man Who Broke 1,000 Chains - Val Kilmer as Robert Elliot Burns

We know that this is a great, real-life story. But why the need to retell it? Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on March 11th, 2017 at 3:49 pm. Updated on March 11th, 2017 at 3:49 pm.

» Imprisoned: Survival Guide for the Rich and Prodigal (2015, Hong Kong)

Imprisoned: Survival Guide for the Rich and Prodigal - Philip Keung as Wolfy (left), Babyjohn Choi as Roach (second from right) and Gregory Wong as Nelson Yu (at right)

You might expect a range of helpful tips in a prison survival guide. In this slightly offbeat comedy-drama, it seems that there’s just one: buy your way out of trouble. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on March 6th, 2017 at 4:40 pm. Updated on March 6th, 2017 at 4:40 pm.

» Seduto alla sua destra / Black Jesus (1968, Italy)

Black Jesus - Woody Strode as Maurice Lalubi

That this follows on from my review of Strange Cargo (1940) is pure coincidence, I can assure you, but the two films’ themes are eerily similar. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on February 28th, 2017 at 8:59 pm. Updated on February 28th, 2017 at 8:59 pm.

» Strange Cargo (1940, USA)

Strange Cargo - Ian Hunter as Cambreau (seated), Clark Gable as Verne and Paul Lukas as Hessler

Aah! The delight of two movies in one… tempered only by one of them being rather drawn out, and the other a little weird. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on February 14th, 2017 at 9:10 pm. Updated on February 28th, 2017 at 7:31 pm.

» Hell’s Kitchen (1939, USA)

Hell's Kitchen - Grant Mitchell as the nasty Superintendent Hiram Krispan

I’ve been dudded, I’m afraid. Nearly all the internet synopses of this film say things like, “a paroled ex-con tries to go straight and reform a brutal reform school, only to face a frame-up courtesy of the school’s corrupt warden.” But it’s not a reform school at all, but a place to which boys from reform school are paroled (and the ‘paroled ex-con’ is not on parole, and the frame-up is not chiefly the warden’s doing). Anyway, this has the dubious honour of having absolutely no prison in it at all, although when the uniformed guards use their batons against the residents, it does seem a little like a juvenile jail. Oh well.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on February 4th, 2017 at 3:43 pm. Updated on February 4th, 2017 at 3:43 pm.

» Grosse bêtise / Breakin’ Out (2001, France)

Breakin' Out - Isabelle Habiaque as Laetitia Guerin and Erwan Demaure as her son, Nicolas

The title of a film can obviously influence the lens through which you watch it. Breakin’ Out, the title chosen for this TV movie’s American release, conjures up a dramatic jailbreak: all action and tense anticipation. Its original French title, Grosse bêtise, translates as ‘gross stupidity’ and conveys a different message altogether. And the right one, in this case. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on January 28th, 2017 at 9:00 pm. Updated on January 28th, 2017 at 9:00 pm.

» Passport to Terror (1989, USA)

Passport to Terror - Lee Remick as Gene LePere

Also known as Dark Holiday, this film about an American woman in a Turkish prison invites inevitable comparisons with Midnight Express (1978). But it being about an American held in a Turkish prison is where the similarities begin and end. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on January 22nd, 2017 at 2:41 pm. Updated on January 22nd, 2017 at 2:41 pm.