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Saturday, February 25, 2012

Women's Prison (1955)

When a young housewife (Phyllis Thaxter) enters prison for manslaughter, she finds herself in a corrupt prison system under a sadistic warden (Ida Lupino in a rare bad performance). Directed by Lewis Seiler (GUADALCANAL DIARY), this is a rather cheesy "women behind bars" exploitation movie. Every cliche from the black prisoner who sings Swing Lo Sweet Chariot to prisoners pounding on their cell bars with tin cups to the butch matrons, no cliche goes unturned! It's a pretty unrealistic, one sided view of prison life. With the exception of a kindly doctor (Howard Duff), all the prison staff are snarling nasties and all the prisoners talk in snappy patter and are fun to be around. Couldn't they have thrown in at least one cold blooded career criminal to balance out the fun broads? Despite or maybe because of all the genre cliches, it's more entertaining than it has a right to be! It lacks the heart that made CAGED powerful and Thaxter's whiny nervous Nellie is so annoying that one can't drum up the sympathy one gave to Eleanor Parker in that film. With Jan Sterling, Audrey Totter, Cleo Moore, Juanita Moore, Barry Kelley, Mae Clarke, Gertrude Michael, Warren Stevens and Vivian Marshall who has the film's best punchline.

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