The Strip Search

» Brothers (1977, USA)

This is a ‘thinly disguised’ account of the prison life of Soledad Brother George Jackson, part of which takes in his romance with activist Angela Davis. It’s an unheralded ’70s prison movie that deserves more heralding, even if it loses a bit of momentum once prisoner and professor meet and start cheesily narrating their letters to each other accompanied by a laid-back R&B soundtrack. (more…)

Posted on December 27th, 2020 at 3:29 pm. Updated on December 27th, 2020 at 3:29 pm.

» Prigione di donne / Riot in a Women’s Prison (1974, Italy)

“I don’t want to get to be you and stagnate and finish here… I don’t want to grow old living in here,” says prison novice Martine Fresienne (Martine Brochard) to her cellmates. What her pronouncement lacks in diplomacy, it makes up for in wackiness. (more…)

Posted on August 30th, 2020 at 7:39 pm. Updated on August 30th, 2020 at 7:39 pm.

» La Taularde / Jailbirds (2015, France / Belgium)

“You’re the one who chose prison. Now own it,” Chief Guard Elise Schoelcher (Marie-Sohna Condé) tells Mathilde Leroy (Sophie Marceau), who is desperately keen to be relieved of her edgy cellmate. It’s fair advice in the circumstances. (more…)

Posted on June 23rd, 2020 at 10:03 pm. Updated on June 23rd, 2020 at 10:03 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. (more…)

Posted on May 30th, 2020 at 5:59 pm. Updated on May 30th, 2020 at 5:59 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. (more…)

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

» 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.  (more…)

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

» Alcatraz: The Whole Shocking Story (1980, USA)

So, the whole shocking story of Alcatraz’s 29-year life as a Federal Penitentiary comes down to just two incidents, does it – the May 1946 failed escape attempt known as the ‘Battle of Alcatraz’, and the June 1962 escape bid that may or may not have been successful? Oh, and a bit of filler in-between about Clarence Carnes and Robert Stroud. Nothing else, it seems, was shocking, or part of the whole Alcatraz story. (more…)

Posted on March 7th, 2020 at 8:14 pm. Updated on March 7th, 2020 at 8:14 pm.

» Gefangen / Locked Up (2004, Germany)

For years I avoided this movie, aware that there was a hardcore version, Eingelocht, and fearful that this less graphic version would still be an inane, plotless vehicle for gratuitous ‘erotic’ scenes – like so many WIP movies. The good news is that while it boasts shower scenes and a strip search and a rape and a stabbing in the anus and some consensual sex, it’s mostly in context. Sort of. The not-so-good news is that it is pretty much plotless, much of the acting is abysmal, and it is immediately forgettable. (more…)

Posted on December 9th, 2019 at 1:06 pm. Updated on December 9th, 2019 at 1:16 pm.

» The Number (2017, South Africa)

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.

» Women of San Quentin (1983, USA)

“Look, I sure wasn’t the first to admit it. But there are things that you and the other women officers can do in a prison that a man can’t do. They look at a man in this uniform and their gut response is that it’s the enemy. They look at a woman in this uniform and their gut response is it’s still a woman. That’s what women can do for a prison.” (more…)

Posted on November 8th, 2019 at 7:21 pm. Updated on November 8th, 2019 at 7:21 pm.