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Saturday, March 24, 2012

House of Women (1962)

Convicted of a crime she was innocent of, a young pregnant woman (Shirley Knight) is sent to prison as an accomplice to a robbery. Due to the state laws, children are raised by their mothers in prison for the first three years of their lives before being sent to foster homes if the mothers haven't been paroled. This contrived "women behind bars" melodrama is a cross between serious social examination women's prison movies like CAGED (of which this is a very loose remake) and exploitation flix like WOMEN IN CAGES. It seems well intentioned but all the cliches of the genre are here. The mean spirited corrupt warden (Andrew Duggan), the tough butch matron (Jeanne Cooper), the kindly prison doctor (Jason Evers), the inmate (Constance Ford) pushed to the brink who goes bonkers, the inevitable prison riots where the staff are taken hostage, etc. Strictly "B" movie territory but, of course, enjoyable in a way that so many trashy movies are. Directed by Walter Doniger. With Barbara Nichols (who has a wonderful moment where she tells the parole board where to stick their parole), Margaret Hayes (BLACKBOARD JUNGLE), Virginia Gregg, Paul Lambert and Virginia Capers. Ever mindful of cross promoting their actors, there's a scene where a fight breaks out when one inmate draws a moustache on another inmates Troy Donahue 8x10 photo.

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