» The Smashing Bird I Used to Know (1969, UK)

Also known as School for Unclaimed Girls, this film is very firmly rooted in the the psychedelic, swinging 60s, but loiters around the era’s darker underside, focussing on loss, trauma and exploitation. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on May 31st, 2020 at 10:29 pm. Updated on May 31st, 2020 at 10:29 pm.

» Femmine in Fuga / Women in Fury  (1984, Italy / Brazil)

This is based on a true story. Allegedly. A beautiful young woman, Angela Duvall (Suzane Carvalho), stupidly takes the rap for her morally dissolute, heroin-addled brother, Sergio, who has killed a drug pusher. A third man at the scene would seem to have much to lose should Angela identify him, and he evidently has lots of friends in high-up places who can make life difficult for her. She is given 18 years in the nick, and thrown to the wolves. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on May 30th, 2020 at 5:59 pm. Updated on May 30th, 2020 at 5:59 pm.

» The Outer Gate (1937, USA)

I dug this melodrama out of my stellar ‘Prison Break Classics’ collection and made three unhappy discoveries: it doesn’t involve a prison break, there’s a much better print of it on YouTube, and while it was known for a while as Behind Prison Bars, very little action takes place in prison. Oh well. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on May 27th, 2020 at 12:55 pm. Updated on May 27th, 2020 at 12:55 pm.

» Larceny (2017, USA / Mexico)

Dull and implausible seems to be the consensus of those who have seen this film, also known – a little bewilderingly – as Maximum Security. And yes, dull and implausible it is. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on May 14th, 2020 at 12:27 pm. Updated on May 14th, 2020 at 12:35 pm.

» El hoyo / The Platform (2019, Spain)

There are few prison movies as patently and transparently allegorical as this. In fact, I can’t bring another to mind that comes close. And it’s almost as hard to think of a movie prison that shares fewer features with prisons as we know them; but an intriguing prison it is. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on May 11th, 2020 at 10:31 pm. Updated on May 11th, 2020 at 10:42 pm.

» Sulla mia pelle / On My Skin (2018, Italy)

On 22 October 2009 Stefano Cucchi, a 31-year-old surveyor, boxer, and drug user for 15 years, died in Sandro Pertini prison hospital while awaiting trial on drug possession and trafficking charges. He had been arrested in Rome on 15 October with a modest amount of drugs, and had been badly beaten by the arresting Carabinieri – suffering a broken jaw, two broken vertebrae, and other facial injuries, amongst others. When found dead in his prison ward seven days later he weighed just 37kg. On My Skin recounts the story of this young man, (‘twice murdered by the state’¹), over that week. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on May 3rd, 2020 at 12:04 pm. Updated on May 3rd, 2020 at 12:04 pm.

» Us (2019, USA)

I knew before I watched this that it contained no prison at all. Nada. Zilch. But give me massed red boiler-suits and I’ll have trouble seeing anything other than a commentary on mass incarceration in America, or at least something prisonny. And I was hoping that, not unlike Chicken Run, for example, or any of the Das Experiment variants, maybe it didn’t need to have any prison scenes to make a contribution to the genre. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on April 28th, 2020 at 10:59 am. Updated on April 28th, 2020 at 10:59 am.

» Swathanthryam Ardharathriyil / Freedom at Midnight (2018, India)

Post-Shawshank riddle: How does a first-time, stitched-up, white-collar financial services chap on a murder charge cope with prison? A: He digs deep.  Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on April 15th, 2020 at 10:03 pm. Updated on April 15th, 2020 at 10:03 pm.

» Convict (2014, Egypt)

If it helps avoid confusion with the disappointing Australian film also named Convict (and also released in 2014), Google suggests that the Arabic title for this film – currently available on Netflix – translates as ‘What are you, prisons?’. That might not help much, but it’s a fair question. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on April 12th, 2020 at 2:17 pm. Updated on April 12th, 2020 at 2:17 pm.

» Shaun the Sheep (2015, UK / France / USA)

1. I know it’s not a prison movie; the prisonny bits are not the main game. 2. I know that prisonny bits are not exactly prison, either; the pedantic would call it an animal containment centre, or pound, or shelter for lost, seized and abandoned (read ‘socially disadvantaged’) animals. 3. I don’t care. The containment centre is a prison and is full of wonderful prison clichés. But I do have to admit that it’s a little unusual for a jailer to personally pursue his detainees after they have escaped. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on April 11th, 2020 at 11:10 pm. Updated on April 11th, 2020 at 11:10 pm.