Fed up with the inhumane prison living conditions, a general prison riot breaks out, leading to hostage-taking, a stand-off with the guards and eventual negotiations with the prison administration officials.
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Producer Walter Wanger, who had just been released from a prison term after shooting a man he believed was having an affair with his wife, wanted to make a film about the appalling conditions he saw while he was incarcerated. He got together with director Don Siegel and they came up with this film, in which several prison inmates, to protest brutal guards, substandard food, overcrowding and barely livable conditions, stage an uprising, in which most of the inmates join, and take several guards hostage. Negotiations between the inmates and prison officials are stymied, however, by politicians interfering with the prison administration, and by dissension and infighting in the inmates' own ranks. Written by
At the time this was produced (1953-54), the Production Code was in full force. The Code prohibited any direct references to homosexuality. That's why the dialog subtly refers to keeping young inmates away from "certain prisoners." See more »
When the state police force the convicts back into the prison by launching a barrage of tear gas at them, the police move forward, into the area being bombarded. The convicts are overcome by the gas, but the police aren't - even though they're not wearing gas masks and are enshrouded by the same gas the convicts are. See more »
The following acknowledgment appears after the opening credits: "We wish to thank Mr. Richard A. McGee and his staff of the California Department of Corrections, Warden Heinze, Associate Warden Ryan, Correctional officers and the inmates of Folsom Prison for their co-operation." See more »
Several prison inmates, to protest brutal guards, substandard food, overcrowding and barely livable conditions, stage an uprising, in which most of the inmates join, and take several guards hostage. Negotiations between the inmates and prison officials are stymied, however, by politicians interfering with the prison administration, and by dissension and infighting in the inmates' own ranks.
The producer Walter Wanger (known for Ford's "Stagecoach" and Hitchcock's "Foreign Correspondent") had recently been in prison for shooting his wife's lover, and his experience there motivated this production. The film was shot on location at Folsom State Prison with real inmates and guards playing background roles.
"Riot in Cell Block 11" was the first film work for Sam Peckinpah, who was hired as a third assistant casting director by Don Siegel. Wanger and Siegel would team up again two years later for "Invasion of the Body Snatchers".
The Criterion release is a must-have, with plenty of background information on those involved, the inspiration, related writings and an excellent audio commentary from a noted film historian.
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