Riot in Cell Block 11 (1954)
In this prison film, Neville Brand plays a "lifer" who leads his fellow prisoners in revolt. Surprisingly, they don't want to escape -- they just want better living conditions. The parallels between this fictional story and the much-later convict uprising at Attica is underlined when Brand begins manipulating the media.
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Critic Reviews for Riot in Cell Block 11
The grim business of melodrama behind prison walls, so often depicted in standard, banal fashion in films, is given both tension and dignity in Riot in Cell Block 11.
Don Siegel emerged as more than just a Hollywood journeyman director with this hard-hitting, realistic prison picture, which presents a credible account of both the riot and the conditions that caused it.
The film sketches in the set-up with a beautifully delineated terseness -- one-shot character introductions, a rookie guard cold-cocked, the prison corridor erupting as the cons pour out.
As Dunn and Crazy Mike, the leaders of the riot, Neville Brand and Leo Gordon convincingly bleed into their roles.
Siegel, with his innate sense of cinematic intensity and how to deploy violence with both visual and thematic heft, keeps the film's style relatively simple and straightforward, which allows the complexities of the situation at hand to take center-stage.
[Director Don] Siegel later referred to Riot In Cell Block 11 as his breakthrough film, and it's easy to see why. Shooting fast and loose, he gives the film a documentary immediacy [...]
From the details of prison life to the emotional arguments, it maintains a tangible sense of truth.
Audience Reviews for Riot in Cell Block 11
[font=Century Gothic]Directed by Don Siegel, "Riot in Cell Block 11" is a taut and earnest social drama about a prison riot set off to demonstrate the poor conditions and overcrowding in a prison. One of the convicts' demands is to learn a trade which would aid them once they are released. In short, the convicts simply want to be treated like human beings. Is that too much to ask? A sympathetic warden(Emile Meyer) is patient in wanting a peaceful end to the situation while the convicts are led by two hard cases, Dunn(Neville Brand) and Carnie(Leo Gordon), while The Colonel(Robert Osterloh), formerly a decorated officer, just wants to sit it out, hoping not to ruin his chances at parole. So, while no sides are taken in the movie, it is distressing how often the word psychopath is bandied about. [/font][font=Century Gothic][/font]
[font=Century Gothic]Prison reform is still a valid concern and like the film says, not enough information is given to the public. Part of this comes from politicians, not wanting to be accused of being soft on crime. For example, look at the accusations made against former governor Nelson Rockefeller concerning the convicts' deaths at the Attica riot of 1971. For this reason, I find it hard to believe that the warden would not have done a better job of keeping the press at bay, instead of allowing photo opportunities with the convicts. What certainly surprised me about "Riot in Cell Block 11" is how integrated the cast is for a movie made back in 1954.[/font]
Although technically a "B" picture, there is an underlying call for humanity in relation to prison life at the heart of this armed uprising. One wonders what kind of an impact this film had on prison conditions in the U.S. or was it merely seen as an entertaining flick.More
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