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
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 »
"Riot in Cell Block 11" is a very good, very tough prison movie. However, I should also warn you that it's also got a very strong and not especially subtle message...and could have been handled a bit less obviously. The producer had an axe to grind...and it's too obvious. On the other hand, it is a nice contrast to the usual evil jerks in prison film.
When the film begins, there is a preachy prologue about prison riots and how they are the fault of the politicians and the people for allowing prisons to become that rotten. While to some extent this is true, the message come on about as subtly at a baseball bat against your skull. Then the film begins, a fictionalized account of prisoners rioting at a prison and the ineffectiveness and duplicitous nature of public officials in dealing with it. Again and again, the Warden advises for restraint and seems very much in agreement with most of the prisoners' demands...and time and again, the powers that be think the best way to handle the prisoners is to bluster and lie.
So if the film comes off as a bit preachy, why do I still give it a 7 (and I was tempted to give it an 8)? Well, the acting is really terrific. Neville Brand is great as the prisoner in charge of the rioters and the rest of the actors did a really nice job. Had the message been toned down a tad, the film might have earned a 9.
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