Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5.
USA, 1954. Walter Wanger Productions. Story and Screenplay by Richard Collins. Cinematography by Russell Harlan. Produced by Walter Wanger. Music by Herschel Burke Gilbert. Production Design by Dave Milton. Film Editing by Bruce B. Pierce
Early Don Siegel action film that takes the high number of prison riots in the headlines at the time and creates great drama, inspired by producer Walter Wanger’s own experiences behind bars after being convicted for shooting a man who had an affair with his wife. Folsom Prison is one of many penal institutions that put their inmates through poor living conditions, inspiring unrest that in this film begins when a guard in Block 11 is knocked out and a prisoner uses his keys to release everyone else. Pretty soon the place is a riot zone with armed guards called in to negotiate for hostages, while inside the walls the tension mounts as the men start arguing with each other. Siegel could easily make a moral tale out of this smarmy bit of exploitation, but he leaves the deeper thinking out of the action. The focus is on the energy of the event and the excitement of subverting the status quo, while the various players are presented as having their own perspectives and no one has their sympathies favoured.