» Heartlock (2018, USA)

Heartlock - Lesley-Ann Brandt as Tera Sharpe and Alexander Dreymon as Lee Haze

Downing a Duck‘, one prisoner’s written account of how to cultivate and manipulate a correctional officer to breach prison security, has seemingly been used worldwide as a training tool for new officers. Heartlock is pretty much its filmic equivalent. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on February 9th, 2019 at 3:31 pm. Updated on June 13th, 2019 at 3:32 pm.

» Joshila (1973, India)

Joshila - Dev Anand (holding rifle) as Amar Kumar, and to his left, in his dressing gown, is Manmohan Krishan as the Jailor

Many of the synopses of this film suggest that it is about a poetry-loving jailor’s daughter who falls in love with a prisoner. It’s not. Shalini (Hema Malini) has a classmate whose father is the Jailor of Delhi’s Central Jail, and she spends a holiday with her friend, living inside the jail. The Jailor (Manmohan Krishan) allows her to roam freely around the jail, and in the quarry where the prisoners work, unaccompanied… and it’s there that she meets Amar Kumar (Dev Anand), an electrical engineer with a taste for poetry. And falls for him. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on January 28th, 2019 at 3:28 pm. Updated on June 13th, 2019 at 3:29 pm.

» La noche de 12 años / A Twelve-Year Night (2018, Uruguay and others)

A Twelve-Year Night -

The Variety interviewer tosses director Álvaro Brechner a helpful prompt: “It’s not a prison movie…” “No, it’s not,” he agrees. “Two things are always present in a prison movie: the intent of escape; the recreation of a micro-society within the penitentiary. None of this happens here. It’s a film about descent into the depths of inner hell.” Señor Brechner and I might differ on what constitutes a prison movie, but I can see why he would see it as a film about descent into the depths of inner hell. Indeed, it would be a show of rudeness (and folly, really) to contradict him on what his film is about, but I reckon it’s even more about survival and resilience. And triumph.

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Posted on January 23rd, 2019 at 3:26 pm. Updated on June 13th, 2019 at 3:27 pm.

» Absolute Aggression (1996, USA)

absolute-0

It’s the future: 2011. Back in 2002 out of control tax rates had triggered a Depression, with half the population forced out of work. In response to soaring crime rates and civil unrest Congress made new offences (such as gun ownership, ho ho, tax evasion and speech code violations) capital crimes, alongside murder and treason. Smoking has become an offence against the Clean Air, Clean Minds Act (2005) and carries a minimum one-year term. And the execution of all the new Death Row inhabitants has become a mass entertainment commodity in a privatized Virtual Reality prison system. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on January 12th, 2019 at 3:23 pm. Updated on June 13th, 2019 at 3:25 pm.

» Prison-A-Go-Go! (2003, USA)

Prison-A-Go-Go! - Laurie Walton as Janie, and the shower scene countdown clock

The problem with these hit-and-miss spoofs is, well, that they’re hit-and-miss. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on January 5th, 2019 at 4:28 pm. Updated on June 13th, 2019 at 3:23 pm.

» 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.

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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.