Neville Brand plays a “lifer” who leads his fellow prisoners in revolt. Surprisingly, they don’t want to escape — they just want better living conditions. The parallels between this fictional story and the much-later convict uprising at Attica is underlined when Brand begins manipulating the media.
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Walter Wanger's pet project was fundamentally well served by being placed in the hands of Richard Collins and Don Siegel. You are not going to find many films focusing on the penal system that are this magnanimous and even-handed. What distinguishes the film above all else is Emile Meyer's performance as the warden. I know of no other character this sensitively wrought anywhere else in Siegel's cinema of brawn.
DVD projection. Realism. here, is a triumph and a deficit: filmed in Folsom prison, the film appeals to a tactile proximity to spaces and individuals, but it's conditioned by this, only finding in some moments a cinematographic breathing: the frames of the prison corridors, with depth of field and dramatic light, where the vision of the spectator finds itself in space's density, like the pic that illustrates it here.
Meyer and Brand give the highlight performances in this pseudo-documentary prison film, but the real star is the location shooting at Folsom with real inmates as extras. Quite a good film, but when comparing to other great prison features of the day like Brute Force, parts seemed undercooked. Still a very timely film showing how the prison system worked back in the day, therefore, worth a look. 3 stars
Arguably made better because of its dynamite (pun intended) production - using real Folsom prison inmates, riot scenes have a docu, gritty urgency. Gordon, a former inmate himself, had to be searched each day just to make sure he wasn't helping the real convicts escape. The proximity to reality is supported by a text from Hard Men Peckinpah and Siegel that leaves nothing to the imagination.