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'd just did time (4 mos. after shooting a man he believed was having an affair with his wife), wanted to make a film which showed the appalling conditions he saw whilat incarcerated. Working with Don Siegel, they wrote this film. In protest to the brutal guards, substandard food, overcrowding and poor living conditions, inmates stage an uprising, and take several guards hostage. Negotiations between the inmates and prison officials are stymied, by politicians interfering with the prison administration, and by dissension and infighting amongst the inmates.Written by
Amongst the cast were actor Neville Brand, a 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 5 years in San Quentin (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 »
I promise you no harm will come to you during this conversation. Guard! These are my instructions. Dunn is to be allowed to come into this yard and return to 11 without interference.
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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 »
Producer Walter Wanger wanted to make a film that exposed the appalling conditions of the prison community - and having been incarcerated himself after shooting a man he was sure was having an affair with his wife - had plenty of personal experience.
The resulting 1954 80 minute gritty drama, almost an unprecedented certificate 15, even now, was directed by Don Siegel. Following a popular format in those days, it starts off with a social documentary approach, complete with concerned voice-over - that this is a public announcement, part expose, part drama. It is not based on fact, at least not from one singular incident.
As you might expect, we follow prison guards (my title is the warning given to them, as they arm-up to thwart the riot), politicians and those who shape policy and of course, a handful of inmates. These provide everyday backbone; their tales are simple and uncomplicated and it's impossible to not side with them, or at least their plight. As ring- leaders take guards hostage, it becomes a nail-biting cat and mouse scenario, with Dunn (Neville Brand) producing ultimatums. Warden Emile Meyer wants negotiation, state officials want only swift force.
The film is well made and tautly directed, efficient but doesn't feel rushed. The version I saw on TCM (Turner Classic Movies) had a slight green cast but was generally good. I imagine that Riot In would have been compelling and possibly controversial viewing for cinema goers. It would have found favour especially amongst those who liked the hard crime film-noir type of dramas of the day, but without any of the glamour of femme fetales.
My guess is that whilst many prison dramas had been made at this point, they were character-lead and not out to socially comment. This would have been as hard-hitting as any TV '60 Minute' (etc) documentary and because it's still a good and credible film, it's still within the public domain, though is rarely shown and expensive to buy.
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