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Arnie Judlow, an inmate at San Quentin prison serving a life sentence for murder, devises a daring plan with his wife and his brother Bill to help him escape, part of which involves Bill and Arnie's wife posing as a married couple and moving to a house near the prison. Although the plan appears to go smoothly at first, it soon runs into a few snags--the couple move next door to a suspicious prison guard who knows Arnie and, more importantly, Bill and his brother's wife begin to find themselves attracted to each other. Written by
Gimmicky plot that doesn't work despite the key ingredients. In 1957, Jack Palance was one of the most interesting actors around. His skeletal face and intense manner looked nothing like the pretty boy stereotypes that dominated male leads of the day. So why does this opportunity to play dual roles fall as flat as it does. I'm not sure, but the uninspired pacing of director Russell Rouse fails to generate much needed excitement. Then too, the script is not just confusing but fails to present Palance with a clear concept that can be acted out with his usual intensity. Where there should be a contrast between the bad brother Arnie and the sympathetic brother Bill, Palance ends up playing both in a confusingly similar fashion. That sort of ambiguity may play well with art house audiences, but here it drains the film of much needed dramatic tension. Then too, Barbara Lang as the moll shows why it takes more than a shapely figure and a good dye job to make an actress, even in the Marilyn Monroe-driven 1950's.
The film has two things going for it-- filming at unusual San Quentin locations, along with cult actor Timothy Carey in a brief but typically memorable role as Palance's cell mate. Note how real inmates (I think) try to get a moment of fame in the prison scenes, one of which apparently includes the actual mess hall. In a better film, these scenes would have contributed greatly, but here they simply pass without impact. One can only speculate as to the explosive potential of vintage Palance and the incorrigibly oddball Carey confined together in the same cell. Too bad, director Rouse and the writers didn't realize what they had. Just watch Carey's rolling eyes wheel away from whatever the mouth is saying as though they're hooked up to two unruly strangers. A potential clash between the exotics Palance and Carey would have created an exceptional moment for cult admirers everywhere.
All in all, the slack direction and sloppy script sabotage what could have been a memorably offbeat B-film.
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