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 »
This film was based on an April 1952 riot at the State Prison in Jackson, Michigan in which the inmates held nine guards hostage for five days. Newsreel footage of that riot (and others) begins the film. 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 »
An exceptional social issue film about prisoners rioting, trying to get the press to tell the stories of their mistreatment and trying to get the government to effect change in the prison system. Everything about it is absolutely top-notch: the screenplay and the direction are realistic and very, very taut. Don Siegel, I assume, didn't have a huge budget on this one, and he accomplishes an amazing lot. I love the way Richard Collin's script pits the rioters not only against the establishment, but also against each other. In a cell block full of so many differing personalities (or perhaps "criminalities" is a better word), they're not all likely to agree. The acting is almost universally excellent, with the one exception of Emile Meyer, who plays the Warden. He's a little creaky, but all the others, including Neville Brand, Leo Gordon (who had been a real prisoner in the prison seen in this film), and Robert Osterloh among many others, are pretty much perfect. One strong moment after another makes Riot in Cell Block 11 a must-see gem, a low-budget masterpiece. 10/10.
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