Contents of Issue #6 Contents of Issue #6 [Welcome] [Features] [In Focus] [Reviews] [Info]

The Prison in Cinema
Page 1Page 2Page 3Page 4Page 5Page 6    by Dr. Paul Mason -- page 5 of 6

A guard's bullet kills an inmate during
a prison riot in
Birdman of Alcatraz.

Other Themes

Of course many other themes are prevalent in prison films -- not least of which is the prison escape documented in films such as Prison Break (1938), Crashout (1955), Breakout (1975) and, perhaps most memorably Midnight Express (1978). The constant battle with authority also punctuates most prison films. Inmate defiance has been central to the prison movie. Robert Stroud's refusal to be institutionalised in Birdman Of Alcatraz (1962) is a prime example of such a battle. Stroud is locked in a constant struggle throughout the film with the Governor, culminating in Stroud's tirade against the prison system:

"You want your prisoners to dance out the gates like puppets on a string with rubber stamp values impressed by you with your sense of conformity, your sense of behaviour, even your sense of morality. . . . When they're outside they're lost -- automatons just going through the motions of living, but underneath there's a deep, deep hatred for what you did to them. . . . The result? More than half come back to prison."

The battle is sometimes physical with brutal exchanges between officers and inmates, as in McVicar (1980), Scum (1983), and Lock Up (1989). At other times, the inmates win small victories over the system -- as when they broadcast music over the exercise yard from the Governor's office in The Shawshank Redemption (1995) and when an inmate deliberately loses a big race in The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Runner (1962).

page 5 of 6


Page 1: Introduction

Page 2: The Prison Movie as Genre

Page 3: The Prison Machine

Page 4: On Entering Prison

Page 5: Other Themes

Page 6: Captured On Film


Top Welcome Features In Focus Reviews Info