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Punishment Park (1971)

"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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Cast overview, first billed only:
Patrick Boland ...
Kent Foreman ...
Defendant in the tribunal
Luke Johnson ...
Defendant in the tribunal
Katherine Quittner ...
Nancy Smith
Stan Armsted ...
Mary Ellen Kleinhall ...
Allison Mitchner
Mark Keats ...
William C. Hoeger, Tribunal Chairman
Gladys Golden ...
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


"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


Drama | Thriller


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

December 1971 (UK)  »

Also Known As:

Büntető park  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


Many of the "actors" were not acting in a traditional sense. In the introduction, Peter Watkins says many protesters were real-life protesters, and most soldiers were real-life conservatives. All improvised lines based on their opinions. There were no rehearsals. See more »


At the end of the film, when the defendants of group 638 are listening their sentences and again when they are being asked if the prefer the Punishment Park instead of their original sentences, Allison Mitchner is being referred by the president/judge as Mary Ellen Mitchner. At the start of the film she is being referred as Allison Mitchner. The name of the actress that plays the role of Allison Mitchner is Mary Ellen Kleinhall. See more »


Defendant Lee Robert Brown: You don't wanna hear my message. You spent fifty years evolving a propaganda system that'll take the truth and change it into what you wanna hear. You don't wanna hear shit that's gonna mean you might have to give up something. You don't want it. All you wanna do is sit on your fat, dividend-drawing ass and draw dividends.
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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 »


Featured in Hagan Reviews: Punishment Park (2017) See more »

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User Reviews

Frightening in so many ways
11 June 2001 | by See all my reviews

It's said that this film is or was banned in the US since it was released. Since there is no information on IMDb I must rely on my other sources and believe it. If this is really true, the movie is even more hurtful and frightening and is it is anyway.

The movie is a so-called mockumentary, although I think the topic is too serious call it like that. It creates a scenario where America is like a military state and all revolutionary objects are arrested immediately without proof. After an obligatory tribunal they have to decide if they go to prison for some years or choose the punishment park. In that, they have to walk through the desert for three days to reach an American flag, posted 50 miles ahead, while they're are followed by police and army troops.

The movie itself pretends to be a documentary about these incidents and follows both the tribunals and the hunting through the desert, filmed by European film crews. All the facts are explained, the interviewers ask questions and film everything. People stare directly into the camera, shouting at it. It seems very, very real. Talking about realism here is nonsense. This movie is not about how to make a realistic film, it is about how such a film would look like, if it was real. And it certainly would look like this. If it would be filmed anyway. In an 'utopian' state like this, there surely wouldn't be a European film crew allowed to film those things.

There are many things that frighten us. The defendants are people from all social classes. Political leaders, musicians, authors, philosophers, unemployed, etc. They seem to be hopeless, rebellious or scared. They are no heroes. They talk a lot in the tribunal, knowing it doesn't lead to anything, saying nevertheless all they said in speeches and books and songs before. One says he's not afraid to die. Is this true? Well, he doesn't have to run through the desert hunted by cops. The defendants have no chance, or at least, their only chance, the decision between prison and punishment park, is no chance really. The way they decide in the end and the way film ends, makes it clear that this kind of heroism is suicide.

These tribunals remind us a lot of tribunals in the Third Reich. The officials use the same kind of idealistic speeching, ignoring all the arguments from the defendants, starting to scream at them and then telling them they should be quiet. They warn the defendants of "watching their language" and insult them much more. They ask them questions, the defendants can not answer, but it's never intended they should. These scenes are a statement about what we call justice.

The scenes in the desert are on a different level. When we see the prisoners for the first time, we realize that they realize, they haven't got a chance. Seeing the desert and the mountains, feeling the sun and the thirst, they don't have a clue how they should stand those three days. The film crew follows them and talks to them while they try to escape this madness. They argue, should they play the game, or escape, or revolt? It all leads to the same and no one is surprised. Some will question if such parks would exist in reality in such a state? Why not? It empties the prisons and allows the government to punish the revolutionaries as they want to. It is not a gas chamber, but the Nazis killed jews before concentration camps were built. The comparison is fair, since there is no real difference.

The movie is scary and depressing. The problems that are talked about sound to familiar to ignore. This is not science-fiction. Talking about poverty, unemployment and crime is not utopic. The film shows us that government and democracy as it is presented to us, is not only useless, but dangerous. It also shows us that revolution is not definitely the solution. The defendants seem to be confused because they don't really know how to fight this. They do things, but for nothing. Even if this delivers no solution to us, it still is a statement.

To me, the most frightening thing is the fact of the banning of this movie. Here we have a film that accuses the loss of freedom, moral and peace. It accuses the government, a fictional government nevertheless, to be dangerous and inhuman. And then this very film is practically banned.

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