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Punishment Park (1971)

 -  Drama | Thriller  -  1980 (West Germany)
7.9
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Ratings: 7.9/10 from 4,018 users  
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"Punishment Park" is a pseudo-documentary purporting to be a film crews's news coverage of the team of soldiers escorting a group of hippies, draft dodgers, and anti-establishment types ... See full summary »

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Title: Punishment Park (1971)

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Patrick Boland ...
First Tribunal Defendant
Kent Foreman ...
Defendant in the tribunal
...
Jay Kaufman, Tribunal Defendant
Luke Johnson ...
Defendant in the tribunal
Katherine Quittner ...
Nancy Smith
...
James Arthur Kohler, Tribunal Defendant
Stan Armsted ...
Charles Robbins
Mary Ellen Kleinhall ...
Allison Mitchner
Mark Keats ...
William C. Hoeger, Tribunal Chairman
Gladys Golden ...
Mary Jurgens, Tribunal Member
Sanford Golden ...
Sen. Harris
George Gregory ...
Mr. Keagan
Norman Sinclair ...
Alfred J. Sully - Tribunal Member
Sigmund Rich ...
Prof. Hazlett
Paul Rosenstein ...
Paul Reynolds - Tribunal Member
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Storyline

"Punishment Park" is a pseudo-documentary purporting to be a film crews's news coverage of the team of soldiers escorting a group of hippies, draft dodgers, and anti-establishment types across the desert in a type of capture the flag game. The soldiers vow not to interfere with the rebels' progress and merely shepherd them along to their destination. At that point, having obtained their goal, they will be released. The film crew's coverage is meant to insure that the military's intentions are honorable. As the representatives of the 60's counter-culture get nearer to passing this arbitrary test, the soldiers become increasingly hostile, attempting to force the hippies out of their pacifist behavior. A lot of this film appears improvised and in several scenes real tempers seem to flare as some of the "acting" got overaggressive. This is a interesting exercise in situational ethics. The cinéma vérité style, hand-held camera, and ambiguous demands of the director - would the actors be ... Written by Dick Rockwell <dr1orok@atlas.moa.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Drama | Thriller

Certificate:

R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

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Release Date:

1980 (West Germany)  »

Also Known As:

Büntető park  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Whole movie was filmed using Eclair 16 mm camera. Theather cut and the version for released DVD is been blown up to 35 mm film. See more »

Goofs

In her tribunal closing statement, Alison Mitchner makes reference to the Preamble to the Constitution of the United States, and uses the phrase "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness". This phrase is in the second sentence of the Declaration of Independence, not the Constitution. See more »

Quotes

James Daly, Defense Attorney: Ladies and Gentlemen of the tribunal, I would like to read you something: "The streets of our country are in turmoil. The universities are filled with students rebelling and rioting. Communists are seeking to destroy our country. Russia is threatening us with her might and the republic is in danger. Yes, danger from within and without. We need law and order or our nation cannot survive". We might all be forgiven for supposing those to be the words of our President. But they are not. Those words...
[...]
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Crazy Credits

There are no opening credits at all. The title doesn't appear until halfway through the closing credits. See more »

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User Reviews

A lost classic of strength and purpose.Find it. See it.
13 January 2001 | by (Boston. MA) – See all my reviews

I had to see this movie with French subtitles, as I understand it was unavailable for 30 years. I can see why. As a mock documentary, it thinly disguises a diatribe against American society during the Vietnam era - the country's hypocrisy and its culture of violence. It is a forthright piece of agit-prop mock verite filmmaking that I can imagine would easily provoke strong reactions among the youth and among the left during that divisive era. That, of course, is its strength and its purpose. The narrative itself cuts between two scenarios. Neither is meant to be 'realistic'; each is exaggerated for impact and to push the metaphoric value of the situation. On one hand, you have a group of radicals neatly representing various factions of the left - a feminist, a pacifist, a revolutionary, a black activist, a political activist, a musician for free expression. They are brought one by one before a kind of kangaroo court made up of various bigoted, closed minded fascistic pro-war, `America Love it or Leave it' types. These 'pigs' are there to determine the guilt of these left wing 'subversives' and then give them a choice - fifteen years in a federal prison or - Punishment Park. The second scenario involves a group of radicals who have been sentenced to Punishment Park and are about to find out what that means. This story provides a second metaphor concerning American injustice and its cults of violence, division, and oppression. This group must get across the desert in 90 to 100 degree heat to a final destination, where the American flag has been placed. They have two hours to get a head start before a group of p***ed off and bloodthirsty troopers and National guardsman will attempt to hunt them down. They must then surrender or be shot. The chances - obviously

  • are slim.


By going back and forth between these two scenes - the absurd tirades of right wing bigots against the left to the hopeless cause of radicals running for freedom in Punishment Park - the point is made quite clear. The effect of the relentless documentary style and of the film's punishing politics keeps your interest and still manages to incite and indict. Many of Watkins' images recall images of the 60's - assassinated radicals, dead blacks, assaults by National Guardsmen, gags in court, and strong echos of the McCarthy hearings. The cumulative effect is strong stuff. Where it could have gotten silly and where it could feel dated - it still disturbs. It is a fabulous premise for a political satire. It would work well now with the neo digital Verite style of the Blair Witch Project in practice and the purloined presidency of George W. and his oppressive cronies in charge.


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