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Women's Prison (1955)

Approved | | Crime, Drama, Film-Noir | February 1955 (USA)
Life at a 1950s women's maximum security prison where the warden and the guards are as brutal as the inmates.

Director:

Lewis Seiler

Writers:

Crane Wilbur (screenplay), Jack DeWitt (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Ida Lupino ... Amelia van Zandt
Jan Sterling ... Brenda Martin
Cleo Moore ... Mae
Audrey Totter ... Joan Burton
Phyllis Thaxter ... Helene Jensen
Howard Duff ... Dr. Crane
Warren Stevens ... Glen Burton
Barry Kelley ... Warden Brock
Gertrude Michael ... Chief Matron Sturgess
Vivian Marshall Vivian Marshall ... Dottie LaRose
Mae Clarke ... Matron Saunders
Ross Elliott ... Don Jensen
Adelle August ... Grace
Don C. Harvey ... Chief Guard Tierney
Juanita Moore ... Polyclinic 'Polly' Jones
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Storyline

During the 1950s, two women inmates are sent to a maximum security state prison. One of the two women is a repeat offender who knows many of the inmates and guards at the prison. She almost feels like returning home to her prison family. The other woman is a decent person, a first-time offender who's no criminal.She unintentionally killed a child in a car accident. She's very young, married, and is terrified of being in prison. Her mental state is very fragile. The women's prison is adjacent to the men's prison. The two prisons are separated by a high wall but there are secret ways of crossing from one prison into the other. Warden Brock is in charge of the men's prison while Amelia van Zandt is the heartless brutal director of the women's prison. The guards are severe and not very friendly, since, they too, fear the wrath of their female warden van Zandt. The only ray of hope and decency in this earthly inferno is the prison doctor, Dr. Crane. However, the good doctor has little ... Written by nufs68

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

DRAMATIC-SHOCKER! (original print ad - all caps) See more »

Genres:

Crime | Drama | Film-Noir

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

February 1955 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Femmes en prison See more »

Filming Locations:

USA

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Sound Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Due to film's popularity in the 1980s, Sony Pictures released it in the boxed set Bad Girls of Film Noir: Volume II. See more »

Goofs

During a sequence showing concurrent events at a co-ed prison (men on one side of wall, women on the other), the women are seen in the yard in sunny weather with short-sleeved uniforms, while the men's side is rainy, with prisoners in heavy coats. See more »

Quotes

Brenda Martin: You won't like it at first, but when you get used to it, you'll really hate it.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Missing Reel: Women in Prison (2014) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Ida Lupino and Nearly Every Bad Girl Movie Star in Hollywood
17 February 2010 | by HarlowMGMSee all my reviews

Dismissed by the critics at the time of it's release as a mediocre copy of 1950's prestigious "women's prison" drama CAGED, 1955's WOMEN'S PRISON has eclipsed that Oscar-nominated movie at least in terms of latter-day fame and as a iconic piece of 1950's Hollywood. The movie, more sensational and lurid than it's predecessor, opened the door for countless low-budget "women in prison" films in subsequent decades, most of which had characters more than a little similar to the ladies on display here. Clearly when it comes to babes behind bars pix, the public at large prefers bad sexy chicks on the rampage than a serious study of the prison system.

That's not to say WOMEN'S PRISON isn't a fairly terrific movie - it is, with a sensational performance as Ida Lupino as the coolly professional yet sadistic lady prison warden Amelia Van Zant. Ms. Lupino may have appeared in a number of classier films but she rarely had such an iconic role as she does here and she's superb. There aren't many actresses who would choose to underplay such a malevolent character as Lupino does; one could well imagine some of her contemporaries making Amelia a fire-breathing dragon from scene one.

Lupino is joined by a cast that includes virtually every "bad girl" actress of the era as one of the inmates - Jan Sterling, Cleo Moore, Audrey Totter, and even (most deliciously) the casting of erstwhile 1930's "bad girls" Mae Clarke and Gertrude Michael as prison matrons. There's also perpetually sweet Phyllis Thaxter as the "new fish in the aquarium", serving one to ten years for vehicle manslaughter when she killed a young child. Already traumatized by the incident by the time she arrives at prison, meek little Phyllis is no match for Lupino's sadistic set-up at the prison which only makes things worse for her. Audrey Totter, often quite the bad girl in other movies, is another inmate who is more sinned against than sinner, innocent but jailed as an accessory to her husband's theft. Indeed, it's a bit incredible that none of the inmates seems to be remotely a person of violence or immorality - friendly floozy Jan Sterling is in the slammer for writing a bad check!! The whole cast is quite good and Sterling is excellent as basically the leader of the girls. Mae Clarke does very well in one her larger roles post-1940; on the other hand, the always appealing Cleo Moore is wasted in a rather thin smallish role as one of the inmates, a comic part as a Southern blonde bombshell. Vivian Marshall, an actress with only a handful of credits (most of them unbilled bits) comes close to stealing the picture as the inmate whose gift for mimicry (check out her fantastic burlesques of Bette Davis and Tallulah Bankhead) comes in handy when the women revolt. Overwrought it may be but WOMEN'S PRISON deserves it's status as a cult film with terrific performances and it's melodrama smoothly handled by underrated director Lewis Seiler.


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