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The young, naive Smitty is sent to prison for six months; Cathy, his girlfriend, watches as he disappears behind the bars and barbed wire. He's assigned a cell with Queenie, a balls-out drag queen, Rocky, a quiet but cocky con, and Mona, a young gay man who ministers to Rocky. Smitty watches in horror as gangs of inmates brutalize prisoners who lack protection. Those who complain risk beatings or murder at the hands of unsympathetic guards: all cries are bootless. Mona offers poetry - Shakespeare's sonnet XXIX; Queenie and Rocky offer Smitty advice, and Rocky offers protection for a price. Smitty's choices and their consequences are the film's main subjects. Written by
The play was inspired by playwright John Herbert's own experiences in the Canadian prison system. Like the character Mona, he was sent to prison (in 1947) after he was robbed and beaten by a group of teens who then accused him of having made a pass at them. Like Queenie, he performed in drag in the prison Christmas show. See more »
Cold, grainy picture made in Canada follows naïve drug-user (Wendell Burton, excellent here as he was in "The Sterile Cuckoo") through rigors of prison life. Adapted from John Herbert's autobiographical play, originally performed in Los Angeles with Sal Mineo as producer, the movie is a curiosity piece, what with a sadly outré drag show and the usual homosexual content handled in somewhat sensational manner. Reportedly a troubled production, it is occasionally gripping and intense, yet impossibly downbeat. Several of the key supporting players are very good, and the narrative and scenario are more solid here than in the not-dissimilar "Short Eyes". ** from ****
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