4 items from 2014
Chicago – The Criterion Collection has added “Riot in Cell Block 11” (1954) to their stellar Blu-ray family, and the transfer is absolutely gorgeous, especially if you’re an admirer of the stark cinematography of the late black & white film era. Although dated, it still packs a gritty wallop.
Directed by Don Siegel – best known for “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” (1956) and “Dirty Harry” (1971) – this prison riot film is framed as a cautionary tale regarding the conditions of prisons in the mid-1950s. Packed with noir beauty, the tick-tick-tick of the tensions in the film underscore the use of shadow and light. Shot in Folsom Prison in California, Siegel makes great use of the weird perspectives of long hallways and old timey prison walls. Some of the corny dialogue and hey-you-mugs interplay is silly in the modern era, but I’m sure the adventurous folks who saw this at the time were transfixed. »
- firstname.lastname@example.org (Adam Fendelman)
The inspiration behind the making of Riot in Cell Block 11 is as equally fascinating as the end product. Producer Walter Wanger (who famously produced Hitchcock’s 1941 film, Foreign Correspondent, among others) was sentenced to a brief stint in prison after shooting a man he believed was having an affair with his then wife, actress Joan Bennett. The dramatic scandal would force Wanger into an experience that apparently changed his life, as leaving prison immediately saw his intense interest in getting this project off the ground, basing it on an actual event that happened in Michigan. Undeniably a semi-documentary message film, it’s an arresting prison drama that features believable performances and striking cinematography. Serving as director Don Siegel’s first major hit at the box office despite lack of female stars and subject matter, it’s his first definitive example of the themes that would mark him as Clint Eastwood »
- Nicholas Bell
(The Criterion Collection)
Two Gems From The 50s
Two new releases from The Criterion Collection spotlight low-budget filmmaking in the 1950s—American and European—and couldn’t be more stylistically and thematically diverse. And yet, there is a personal stamp on the pictures that is very similar. Both films also tackle social problems with brutal frankness and feature anti-heroes as protagonists.
Riot in Cell Block 11 was produced by longtime Hollywood independent producer Walter Wanger (he was also responsible for two earlier Criterion releases, Stagecoach and Foreign Correspondent) as a hard-hitting, gritty, realistic picture depicting the inequities and maltreatment prisoners receive in American prisons. Wanger had a personal reason to make a film like that. He had barely missed spending some time in one. He’d caught his wife with another man, »
- email@example.com (Cinema Retro)
Blu-ray & DVD Release Date: April 22, 2014
Price: Blu-ray/DVD Combo $39.95
Prison justice is dispensed in Riot in Cell Block 11.
Early in his career, Don Siegel (Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Private Hell 36) made his mark with 1954’s Riot in Cell Block 11, a sensational and high-octane low-budget film noir crime drama set in a maximum-security penitentiary.
The brainchild of producer extraordinaire Walter Wanger (Foreign Correspondent), the hard-hitting film is a ripped-from-the-headlines social-problem picture about prisoners’ rights that was inspired by a recent spate of uprisings in American prisons.
In Siegel’s hands, the movie is at once brash and humane, showcasing the hard-boiled visual flair and bold storytelling for which the director would become known and shot on location at Folsom State Prison, with real inmates and guards as extras.
Criterion’s Blu-ray/DVD Combo edition of the film contains the following features:
• New high-definition digital restoration, »
4 items from 2014
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