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

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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 ... See full summary »


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

Big House, U.S.A. (1955) on IMDb 6.6/10

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Complete credited cast:
Reed Hadley ...
William Talman ...
Alamo Smith (as Lon Chaney)
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 <>

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5 KILLER CONVICTS BREAK OUT! (original print ad - all caps) See more »


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Release Date:

18 November 1955 (Belgium)  »

Also Known As:

Big House, U.S.A.  »

Filming Locations:


Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


(Turner library print)

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.75 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Shadow of equipment in foreground when the 3 escapees are talking about fishing with the park ranger on horseback. See more »


Rollo Lamar: I'm gonna kidnap a kidnapper for the money he kidnapped for.
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User Reviews

I'm gonna kidnap a kidnapper for the money he kidnapped for.
6 August 2013 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

Big House, U.S.A. is directed by Howard W. Koch and written by John C. Higgins, George George and George Slavin. It stars Broderick Crawford, Ralph Meeker, Reed Hadley, William Talman, Lon Chaney Jr., Charles Bronson and Felicia Farr. Music is by Paul Dunlap and cinematography by Gordon Avil.

A Kidnap, A Ransom and A Prison Break = Powder Keg.

Out of Bel-Air Productions, Big House, U.S.A. is a relentlessly tough and gritty picture. Beginning with the kidnapping of a young boy from a country camp, Howard Koch's film has no intentions of making you feel good about things. Deaths do occur and we feel the impact wholesale, tactics and actions perpetrated by the bad guys in the play punch the gut, while the finale, if somewhat expected in the scheme of good versus bad classic movies, still leaves a chill that is hard to shake off.

Split into two halves, we first observe the kidnap and ransom part of the story, then for the second part we enter prison where we become cell mates with five tough muthas. Crawford, Chaney, Meeker, Bronson and Talman, it's a roll call of macho nastiness unfurled by character actors worthy of the Big House surroundings. The locations play a big part in the pervading sense of doom that hangs over proceedings, Cascabel Island Prison (really McNeil Island Federal Penitentiary) is every bit as grim as you would expect it to be, and the stunning vistas of Royal Gorge in Colorado proves to be a foreboding backdrop for much of the picture.

Although it sadly lacks chiaroscuro photography, something which would have been perfect for this movie and elevated it to the standard of Brute Force and Riot in Cell Block 11, Avil's photography still has the requisite starkness about it. While Dunlap scores it with escalating menace. Not all the performances are top draw, more so on the good guy side of the fence, and some characters such as Chaney's Alamo Smith don't get nearly enough lines to spit, but this is still one bad boy of an experience and recommended to fans of old black and white crims and coppers movies. 8/10

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