A crooked deputy warden at San Quentin Penitentiary tries to frame a sergeant of the guards, Jack Holden, for the killing of a guard and a prisoner during a jailbreak. Written by
Les Adams <email@example.com>
Low-budgeted and at times silly, but still worth seeing.
This is one of the strangest prison films I have ever seen. According to another reviewer, this story was written by an ex-con who was writing about prison reform. In some ways this is like the very famous Paul Muni film "I Was a Prisoner on a Chain Gang"--but still quite different. The result is an incredibly idealistic film that takes a con's complaints about the system and implements them with a model warden. This makes for a movie that is hard to believe but very interesting. It also isn't helped by the occasionally bad dialog and acting--something very typical of a PRC film.
The film is set at California's infamous San Quentin prison. How truthful the portrayal the prison is at the film's beginning I am uncertain--though I found at least some of it pretty believable. The Warden is a spineless cypher who pretty much lets the guards run the place. The guards are, for the most part, as bad as the prisoners--and routinely beat and mistreat the prisoners. However, after some very well-publicized incidents, the Warden is forced out and on of the guards, a very decent man, is made the new leader of the prison--and allows him to make whatever reforms he wants. The place is very, very different after he takes over--with the men being treated like men and rehabilitation being the theme. Some of the reforms made a lot of sense--some seemed ridiculously idealistic.
What bothered me was not the extreme idealism. It had a point to make and went way overboard to make it (especially the radio talent show)--but you expect that in a reform-oriented film. No, what bothered me was some of the dialog and one of the characters. As for the dialog, it was from the 'aw, shucks' school of acting--and the prisoners, for the most part, were about as scary as munchkins. And, as for the character, the new Warden's wife was just silly--as she seemed to have ESP. She would meet a prisoner and 'just know' that he was good and would make INSANE gestures to help them. To me, she came off as a flake...or a bit of a nut. It's too bad, as if the film had just been written and acted a good bit better, it would have been able to make its point much, much better. Worth a look but very flawed.
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