The Number is based on Jonny Steinberg’s non-fiction book of the same name, based in turn on interviews with Magadien Wentzel, a former high-ranking 28s gang member who served time in the Pollsmoor Prison in Cape Town. Both inside and outside jail, Wentzel has, it seems, so far defied the gang’s dictum that the only way out is through death. The film sheds light on the mysterious workings of the brutal, ritualistic, militaristic prison gangs in South Africa which maintain their traditions of well over a hundred years… and from which Magadien decides to walk away rather than see his son follow the same path. (more…)
Posted on November 23rd, 2019 at 8:27 pm. Updated on November 23rd, 2019 at 8:27 pm.
Several years ago I copped some mild abuse after suggesting that Billy Hayes, the hero of Midnight Express (1978) – a film that shares more than a few things in common with this one – might have got off lightly by escaping so soon into his sentence for smuggling a large quantity of hashish. It’s the same moral dilemma here; addict Dwight Worker (Timothy Bottoms) is caught smuggling cocaine at Mexico City’s airport in 1973, and yet two years into a seven-year sentence we catch ourselves cheering him on in his audacious bid to escape from the notorious Lecumberri Prison. Both films retell true life stories. (more…)
Posted on November 17th, 2019 at 8:27 pm. Updated on November 17th, 2019 at 8:27 pm.
With a bit more imagination this could be a much better film… and still be pretty awful. (more…)
Posted on July 14th, 2019 at 1:11 pm. Updated on July 14th, 2019 at 1:15 pm.
The embedded subtitles on this dubbed-into-English film (at least the version on YouTube) would seem to be a mixture of Danish and Finnish or other Scandinavian languages, which doesn’t seem to make much sense. But then, nor does much else in the film. (more…)
Posted on June 30th, 2019 at 5:42 pm. Updated on July 7th, 2019 at 1:01 pm.
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. (more…)
Posted on December 15th, 2018 at 9:13 pm. Updated on December 15th, 2018 at 9:20 pm.
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.
Posted on December 8th, 2018 at 8:38 pm. Updated on December 8th, 2018 at 8:46 pm.
“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. (more…)
Posted on November 6th, 2018 at 7:39 pm. Updated on August 29th, 2019 at 8:50 pm.
As far as low budget horror films go, this one by the Quiroz Brothers is not so bad. As far as low budget death row horror films go, it is not about a death row, per se, and the term ‘horror’ doesn’t exactly fit, either. But it is decidedly, indisputably, inescapably low budget. (more…)
Posted on February 18th, 2018 at 12:37 pm. Updated on February 18th, 2018 at 12:41 pm.
The Najayo Prison for men at San Cristóbal, about an hour out of Santo Domingo, is right next door to the Najayo Women’s Center of Correction and Rehabilitation. So close that the men in the old prison, if they can get to a high window on the upper storey, can pass messages to the women next door, and vice versa, by an elaborate, bespoke sign language. ‘Woodpecking’, they call it. “The thing is that when the woodpeckers drill their holes they grasp onto the tree – the same way that the guys climb to the windows and grab onto the rails so they can talk to us,” one of the women says. Or you can choose to make up your own explanation.
Posted on January 28th, 2018 at 11:18 am. Updated on January 28th, 2018 at 11:18 am.
I’ve seen a surprising number of people (OK, four, maybe) write in to movie sites asking for the name of the prison movie where an innocent American man escapes a Russian prison in a secret compartment in a truck or a train. I’m nor sure why it’s quite so forgettable or, if it is, why people later want to retrieve its name. This is the film; it’s called Gulag, and it’s a train, not a truck. (more…)
Posted on January 22nd, 2018 at 8:45 pm. Updated on January 22nd, 2018 at 8:45 pm.