Fed up with the inhumane prison living conditions, a general prison riot breaks out, leading to hostage-taking, a stand-off with the guards and eventual negotiations with the prison administration officials.
Producer Walter Wanger, who had just been released from a prison term after shooting a man he believed was having an affair with his wife, wanted to make a film about the appalling conditions he saw while he was incarcerated. He got together with director Don Siegel and they came up with this film, in which several prison inmates, to protest brutal guards, substandard food, overcrowding and barely livable conditions, stage an uprising, in which most of the inmates join, and take several guards hostage. Negotiations between the inmates and prison officials are stymied, however, by politicians interfering with the prison administration, and by dissension and infighting in the inmates' own ranks.Written by
YOU ARE CAUGHT IN THE SCORCHING CENTER OF A PRISON RIOT! YOU feel the savage frenzy of 4000 caged humans! YOU see the horror of the wolf pack on a vengeance kick! YOU sweat out every second with tortured hostages! YOU rock with the impact of brute force against bullets! See more »
Producer Walter Wanger served a four-month prison term for shooting agent Jennings Lang, whom he suspected of having an affair with his wife Joan Bennett. The experiences he had in prison so unnerved him that upon his release he resolved to make a film about what prison was "really" like, not the typical Hollywood prison film made by people who had never been anywhere near a prison or who had never had any experience with the justice system. He shot the film at California's Folsom State Prison and used both guards and inmates as extras and technical advisers. Wanger's cast and crew also differed from the Hollywood "norm"; among them were actor Neville Brand, decorated Army veteran of WW II who earned a Silver Star in the Allied European campaign; actor Leo Gordon, another combat veteran, who had served five years in San Quentin State Prison for armed robbery; and then-production assistant Sam Peckinpah, whose father, Denver Peckinpah, was a widely known and respected law-and-order judge in northern California (and whose name alone was enough to get the warden to allow the film to be shot in Folsom State Prison). See more »
When the state police force the convicts back into the prison by launching a barrage of tear gas at them, the police move forward, into the area being bombarded. The convicts are overcome by the gas, but the police aren't - even though they're not wearing gas masks and are enshrouded by the same gas the convicts are. See more »
The following acknowledgment appears after the opening credits: "We wish to thank Mr. Richard A. McGee and his staff of the California Department of Corrections, Warden Heinze, Associate Warden Ryan, Correctional officers and the inmates of Folsom Prison for their co-operation." See more »
Using nothing but character players and the personal recollections of what producer Walter Wanger saw while he did a stretch in the joint Don Siegel crafted a real masterpiece of a prison film in Riot In Cell Block 11. In fact the lack of star players gives this film a nice ring of authenticity to it.
Cell Block 11 in this particular prison is the solitary ward, the place where the toughest cases are assigned. With a pair like Neville Brand and Leo Gordon in that block would you think otherwise.
Anyway to protest the conditions they're in the prisoners led by Brand stage a riot where they take the guards assigned to that block hostage. When Brand is wounded in a quarrel, Leo Gordon takes over leadership and he's belonging in the psycho ward. But he's the toughest guy in the joint and nobody is going to argue with him.
Emile Meyer does a great job as the warden who is a decent and compassionate individual trying to affect a few reforms. His pleas fall on deaf ears because then as now, convicts don't have any votes and by definition they are an anti-societal group. Meyer's humanity is contrasted with that of Frank Faylen who is a political appointee and tries a grandstand play with the convicts that almost gets him killed.
This is as realistic a prison drama as you will ever get. Big accolades go here to Walter Wanger who had an incredible unique perspective of life on the inside and turned it with Don Siegel's help into a great motion picture.
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