Saturday, April 22, 2017

Inside the Walls of Folsom Prison

So I watched Inside the Walls of Folsom Prison off my DVR this morning since I saw it's available from the Warner Archive. It's worth a watch, but I don't know that it's worth buy at Warner Archive prices.

The movie starts off with an overview of California's Folsom State Prison, and a narration from the point of view of the prison itself of how conditions were much more inhumane in the past. Cut to the 1920s, and a prison riot in which they take one of the guards and Warden Rickey (Ted de Corsia) hostage. The riot, of course fails, and the warden concludes that the way to get people to stop rioting is to be more brutal, which gets a reporter to show up for one throwaway scene.

That reporter is apparently what leads to the state authorities taking notice of the prison conditions, because they decide to send a new man Benson (David Brian) to head up the prison guards. Benson is a college man, and has "modern" ideas on how to treat prisoners, ideas that mean not being so brutal. Needless to say, this ticks Rickey off to no end, and he tries to undermine Benson at every turn.

Meanwhile, among the prisoners, we get several tropes of the genre, with about the only one I didn't see being the new guy who just doesn't know how to handle prison life. There's Daniels (Steve Cochran), the guy who's planning a breakout, and Red (Philip Carey), who is marking time until he can get out and go back to his wife and kids. They're actually friends, even if they have different ideas on how to get out of the place. As for Red, he's trusted enough to drive with a guard out of the prison to pick up dynamite for the prison's quarry operation. Unfortunately, hiding in the truck is another prisoner (William Campbell), and Red decides to alert the other guards in order to prevent his parole from getting hung up. Of course, he's considered a stool pigeon for this....

Inside the Walls of Folsom Prison is a movie I found to be standard-issue prison fare. There's nothing new here, and it's all done with a B-list cast. Most if not all the tropes are here; including the ones I've already mentioned there's the brutality of solitary. Indeed, when I was watching one scene of the warden roughing up a prisoner for information, I couldn't help but think of Hume Cronyn and his truncheon in Brute Force. Looking at the IMDb reviews, I'm not the only person to have that thought.

Inside the Walls of Folsom Prison is a perfectly competent movie, and another of those that would probably be best served by being on one of those four-movie TCM box sets -- say, with a prison theme. Unfortunately, it only seems available as a standalone from the Warner Archive collection, with the commensurately higher price that I'm not certain I'd want to pay for what is essentially a B movie.

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