Big House, U.S.A. (1955)

Approved  |   |  Crime, Drama, Film-Noir  |  18 November 1955 (Belgium)
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Ratings: 6.6/10 from 456 users  
Reviews: 16 user | 9 critic

Jerry Barker finds a lost boy whose rich father is extorted into paying a ransom for his return but the boy accidentally dies and Jerry goes to prison.



, (story) (as George George) , 1 more credit »
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Complete credited cast:
Alamo Smith (as Lon Chaney)
Benny Kelly
Emily Euridice Evans (as Randy Farr)
Robertson Lambert (as Willis B. Bouchey)
Peter J. Votrian ...
Danny Lambert (as Peter Votrian)


When young Danny Lambert runs away from camp in south-central Colorado, he becomes the object of a park-wide-search by his wealthy father Robertson Lambert. He is found by Jerry Barker and told to wait at an abandoned look-out tower while he goes for help. Instead, Barker calls the father and demands $200,000 ransom. The money is delivered and Barker buries most of it. Meanwhile, the panicky boy has fallen from the tower to his death, and Barker drops the body off a cliff. The FBI, led by James Madden, capture Barker but can't convict him of kidnapping and he is given only five years for extortion and sent to Casabel Island Prison. There he is assigned a cell with Rollo Lambar, Alamo Smith, Benny Kelly and Machine Gun Mason. The FBI have now traced an affiliation between Barker and Emily Evans, a nurse at Danny's camp. The five cell-mates, led by Rollo, who plans to kill Benny and dress him in Barker's clothes to throw off the police, execute an underwater prison escape, and head ... Written by Les Adams <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


We're bustin' out of this tomb... And we don't care how many of you we have to kill! See more »


Approved | See all certifications »




Release Date:

18 November 1955 (Belgium)  »

Also Known As:

Blutgeld  »

Filming Locations:


Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


(Turner library print)

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.75 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Even though Felicia Farr made her 'debut' in this film as Randy Farr, she would make her official 'debut' a year later in 'Jubal' as Felicia Farr. And once again co-starring Charles Bronson. In Big House USA, they did not have any scenes together but in Jubal they did. See more »


When Dipsy dies in the outlet steam pipe accident (0:38:36) it's not clear how prison officials deal with his disappearance. See more »


Rollo Lamar: I'm gonna kidnap a kidnapper for the money he kidnapped for.
See more »

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User Reviews

Gritty and awful--and I liked that about this film!
25 August 2007 | by (Bradenton, Florida) – See all my reviews

The film begins with a little boy getting lost while at summer camp. Ralph Meeker finds the boy and pretends to be helping him, but actually is intent on kidnapping him and holding him for a huge ransom. Unfortunately, the kid dies while in his care but Meeker is an animal and STILL proceeds to get the money and then tries to skip town. However, the cold and calculating killer is caught and sent to prison--but unfortunately, all they can prove is that he extorted the money--not that he had anything to do with the boy's disappearance.

This is sort of like a prison movie merged with a Film Noir flick. That's because much of the beginning and ending of the film is set outside prison and its style throughout was rather Noir inspired--with a format much like an episode of DRAGNET (the bloodier 1950s version, not the late 60s incarnation). However, it did lack some of the great Noir camera-work and lighting as well as the cool Noir lingo--but it still succeeded in telling a great story. What was definitely Noir was the unrelentingly awful and brutal nature of the film--a plus for Noir fans. Now I hate violent and bloody films, but this one was a bit more restrained but still very shocking for a 1950s audience--featuring some of the most brutal plot elements of the decade (tossing a child's body off a cliff, burning a corpse with a blowtorch to confuse in the identification of another corpse and the scene with the escaped prisoner who is scalded to death). Because of all this, the film was above all else, realistic and shocking--much of it due to the excellent script, straight-forward acting and a few excellent and unexpected plot twists.

By the way, this is one of the earliest films in which Charles Bronson appears with this name (previously, he'd been billed as "Charlie Buchinsky"). When he takes his shirt off in the film, take a look at how muscle-bound he was--I sure would have hated to have tangled with him!! In his prime, he might have been the most buff actor in Hollywood history who DIDN'T suck down steroids (and, consequently, had minuscule testicles from this drug).

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