|Index||2 reviews in total|
"Riot in Juvenile Prison" is a competently and smoothly done film. It
looks good. The acting is good. The director, Edward Cahn, typically
rises above his material. The problem with the film is that the story
is so hokey. The teens are supposed to be tough and errant, but also
put upon by the tough warden. It's hard to rise above the film clichés
generated by years of earlier Warner Brothers treatments in the 1930s
and make the 1950s version seem real. The problem of this film is
clichés and a failure to make it all believable. So, while the movie is
executed well enough, it's also somewhat hard to swallow, unless you
just happen to be a fan of schlock juvenile movies of the 50s or can
overlook its limitations. There is a sub-genre of these movies, and
some now seem quaint relics of their time unless they were able to
break through the clichés.
In this case we have the prototypical teen who has leadership qualities but has this huge chip on his shoulder. He really hates the "screws". Into a boys' prison or detention facility comes a new psychiatrist, Jerome Thor. He's going to change the institution from A to Z. He first makes it co-ed. Later he'll get rid of all the guards. From tough treatment to an attempt to instill self-discipline and conformity to society's usual rules, that's the story. And everyone will get an aptitude test so that job training can be introduced. Society through Dr. Thor will reform kids who come from unfortunate family backgrounds.
But there are obstacles to this dream program. The kids have their rivalries and sex drives. Marlowe doesn't want to give in and feel manipulated. The public gets upset over the least bit of trouble that the newspapers blow up out of all proportion. The governor feels the pressure.
All in all, the movie earnestly introduces a number of realistic elements and tries to rise above the challenges of making a story about social problems. Its success is only partial. This is, after all, a b-movie, not a James Dean story. It doesn't happen to be one of those gems that occasionally are found. It's a typical kind of movie of its juvenile sub-genre and time. I watch one every so often, despite the occasional groans they elicit. I was glad to have seen this one.
The story really picks up when the new warden decides it's time for the juvenile joint to go co-ed! Decent acting and crowd choreography make this one of director Cahn's most enjoyable efforts. The riot scenes and the dance scenes are very well handled, and Scott Marlowe is effective as the "Rebel with Claws".
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