Riot In Cell Block 11

RIOT IN CELL BLOCK 11 (Criterion, 1954) D: Don Siegel, w/ Neville Brand, Emile Meyer. Rating: NNNN DVD/Blu-ray package: NNNNN.


RIOT IN CELL BLOCK 11 (Criterion, 1954) D: Don Siegel, w/ Neville Brand, Emile Meyer. Rating: NNNN DVD/Blu-ray package: NNNNN Rating: NNNN


As good as any prison movie I’ve seen, Riot In Cell Block 11 is tight, fast, unsentimental and non-exploitative. Made with near-documentary realism, it’s a blunt call for penal reform, but the message never impedes the action.

Fed up with guards’ brutality, overcrowding, enforced idleness, bad food and a host of other things, the cons riot. Led by career criminal Dunn (Neville Brand) and psychopathic Carnie (Leo Gordon), they take hostages and present their demands. Though the warden (Emile Meyer) is reasonable and reform-minded, the negotiator from the governor’s office is not. The situation worsens.

Director Don Siegel, best known for Dirty Harry and Invasion Of The Body Snatchers, uses his dynamic sense of rhythm and composition to keep events vivid and tense. He’s helped by the Folsom Prison locations and the real inmates who serve as extras.

Along with a highly informative new commentary, the extras feature excerpts from Siegel’s autobiography read by his son and a print essay by director Sam Peckinpah, who worked as a gofer on the picture. Producer Walter Wanger, who’d done prison time, wrote a 1954 article on penal reform, reprinted here.

EXTRAS New commentary, reading from Siegel’s autobiography, audio appreciation of Siegel, radio doc on prisons, essay booklet. English audio and subtitles.

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