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On the Yard (1978)

R  |   |  Drama  |  27 April 1979 (USA)
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Ratings: 5.7/10 from 136 users  
Reviews: 6 user | 5 critic

In prison, one prisoner buys some smokes from another. Then he admits he can't pay for it and becomes indebted to him and the interest is rising daily.



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Title: On the Yard (1978)

On the Yard (1978) on IMDb 5.7/10

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Cast overview, first billed only:
Richard Bright ...
Lane Smith ...
Richard Hayes ...
Hector Troy ...
Richard Jamieson ...
Thomas Toner ...
Ron Faber ...
Don Blakely ...
J.C. Quinn ...


In prison, one prisoner buys some smokes from another. Then he admits he can't pay for it and becomes indebted to him and the interest is rising daily.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

prison | based on novel | See All (2) »


More brutal than 'Concrete Jungle'. The ultimate story of life behind bars. See more »




R | See all certifications »




Release Date:

27 April 1979 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Alptraum hinter Gittern  »

Filming Locations:

Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


John Heard gave Thomas G. Waites pointers on how to act for the camera. See more »

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User Reviews

A solid prison picture.
9 March 2014 | by (Canada) – See all my reviews

Nowadays not too many people may remember "On the Yard" when this type of film is brought up, but that's too bad as it's not a bad film at all. It does achieve a sort of "docu- realism", treating the daily routine of convicts in a thoroughly straightforward manner. Everything about it is so matter-of-fact, including the violence, the pecking order among the prisoners, the attempts by the guards to keep them in line, etc. It never goes too far into melodrama, although it does have its poignant moments nonetheless. The characters are reasonably interesting if never that commanding, save for the veteran convict played appealingly by the sad eyed Mike Kellin, who keeps trying to get paroled even though he knows that he can't really function on the outside.

A fairly likable John Heard stars as Juleson, who's locked up for the murder of his wife. Desperate for a smoke, he acquires some from jailhouse kingpin Chilly (Thomas G. Waites). However, he soon finds that he will be unable to settle the debt. And the more time that goes on, the more the interest increases. There's also the timid Morris (Joe Grifasi), who's attempting to put together a hot air balloon so he can escape. Chilly realizes that his little empire is threatened by ambitious fellow inmates. And Blake (Lane Smith), the captain of the guards, is likewise determined to put Chilly in his place.

As you can see, there are some top notch character actors in this thing. Also among them are Richard Bright of the "Godfather" series, Dominic Chianese of 'The Sopranos', David Clennon (Waites's future co-star in John Carpenters' "The Thing"), Don Blakely, J.C. Quinn, Eddie Jones, Ben Slack, and James Remar. The casting of Waites (best known as Fox in "The Warriors" and Windows in "The Thing") as the top con is interesting as one has to wonder just what it is about this man that's allowed him to obtain such influence. As it is, he does deliver a subtle, nuanced performance; Chilly is usually not the type to throw his weight around when he can have other people do that for him.

Granted, the subplot about the balloon is hard to swallow, but for the most part, "On the Yard" is a decent tale well told by director Raphael D. Silver, and produced by "Hester Street" director Joan Micklin Silver (Raphaels' wife). Authentic location shooting in a real Pennsylvania institution and an effective music score by Charles Gross also help to make this good entertainment.

Seven out of 10.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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