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Penitentiary (DVD) (1979)

Wilbur 'Hi-Fi' White , Leon Isaac Kennedy , Jamaa Fanaka  |  R |  DVD
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)


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Product Details

  • Actors: Wilbur 'Hi-Fi' White, Leon Isaac Kennedy, Thommy Pollard, Hazel Spears, Donovan Womack
  • Directors: Jamaa Fanaka
  • Writers: Jamaa Fanaka
  • Producers: Leon Isaac Kennedy, Jamaa Fanaka, Albert Shepard, Alicia Dhanifu, Beatrice Gordon
  • Format: Color, HiFi Sound, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo)
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: Xenon
  • DVD Release Date: March 4, 2003
  • Run Time: 99 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: 6305582726
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #246,253 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Penitentiary (DVD)" on IMDb

Special Features

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Editorial Reviews

A hitchhiker named Martel Gordone gets in a fight with two bikers over a prostitute, and one of the bikers is killed. Gordone is arrested and sent to prison, where he joins the prison's boxing team in an effort to secure an early parole and to establish his dominance over the prison's toughest gang.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Format:DVD
This film was really good. Writer and director Jamaa Fanaka was still a student at UCLA and Penitentiary was the first starring vehicle for former disc jockey and future evangelist Leon Isaac Kennedy. If you don't know the story it goes like this; Too Sweet (Leon Isaac Kennedy) is charged with murder, and convicted despite his innocence; he's shipped off to a run-down prison where Jesse Amos (Donovan Womack), one of the prisoners, lords it over the other inmates. Too Sweet ends up sharing a cell with Half Dead (Badja Djola), a violent lunatic who is one of Jesse's musclemen. Too Sweet refuses to buckle under to the intimidation dished out by Half Dead and his cronies, even after seeing how they've "turned out" Eugene (Thommy Pollard), another new fish who has become Jesse's sexual slave. Forced to defend himself even though he hates violence, Too Sweet displays a genuine talent for fighting, and is persuaded to take part in the prison boxing tournament, where he could win a night with a woman or even his freedom. However, Too Sweet sees the deck may be stacked against him when he finds out his opponent is the horrible Half Dead.

After watching this I found the fight between Too sweet and Half dead particularly interesting. Through out this film you will also find some of the characters to be animated with there jail house humor and realism through others such as Too Sweet's trainer. The cinematography wasn't bad also. The use of the wide angle lenses to give the viewer a distorted view was impressive and the way some characters address the camera was interesting and strange at the same time. Some people say that part two is even funnier and I might give it a try later in the future.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars PENITENTIARY IS AN OLD-SKOOL KNOCK OUT!!!! November 24, 2007
Format:DVD
Wow, what memories; this movie is definately a cult classic. I remember going to the movies (I'm in Detroit) once every weekend to see this as long as it was at the Madison Theatre (not a theatre anymore). "Half-Dead" had a pretty successful career after this but I don't see any more of the cast anywhere. The warden was "Porky" in the Porky's movie; I believe Leon Isaac Kennedy learned the truth in Christ. Anyway, enough rambling....want a memory??? Pick this up!!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Most Realistic Prison Movie Ever! March 10, 2006
Format:DVD
Penitentiary. Wow! This is not your average, run of the mill, candy-coated prison movies. Be sure to fasten your seatbelt before taking off on this journey. After seeing it for the first time, it shocked me because I wasn't ready. However, after that, I basically became hooked. I simply cannot get enough of Penitentiary. The fight seen between Half Dead Johnson and Too sweet is the best raw, street fight type of battle you will ever witness on screen. The "Crazy Man" game, when Too Sweet jumped on Big Jesse, the (heterosexual) orgies in the bathroom, the final bout . . . I could go on and on about this movie, but I'll end here by saying if you are a fan of prison movies, you simply can't go wrong with Penitentiary. Too Sweet is the Man!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Don't get locked up unless you can fight March 12, 2009
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
This movie will make anyone clean up their act and get straight to keep from getting locked up. Either that or it will make you want to become a boxer in the slammer so you can hook up with chicks. This movie has some memorable scenes that will have you rolling. One of the rare times that the nickname "Too Sweet" in prison doesn't mean you are someones girlfriend.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Violence, Sex and Prison November 25, 2010
Format:DVD
"Penitentiary" appeared in 1979, at the end of the blaxploitation movie era, and has some of the hallmarks the genre: a few wooden performances and rather poor production values. It's nonetheless an excellent film. T Donovan Womack as "Jesse" the prison shot-caller, Badja Djola as "Half Dead" and a few others compensate for the wooden performances. The real authenticity of the movie compensates for it low-budget production values. Wherever director-writer Jamaa Fanaka got it, he clearly had reliable information about his topic.

The theme running through "Penitentiary" is a prison gang's attempt to convert a young new inmate who they dub "Too Sweet" into their sex-slave through rape, an effort foiled when the intended victim defeats and in turn sodomizes his anointed rapist, "Half-Dead." A sub-plot involves the relationship between the shot-caller "Jesse" and his prison wife Eugene, renamed "Jenny" after he is turned-out. It closely follows the realities of prison sex and sexuality, including the nuances of how sex, violence and love can get fused and confused. Thus we see a scene of extreme violence when "Jesse" brutally beats "Jenny" for standing over instead of sitting down on the toilet while urinating -- defying his role as "wife" and substitute female by committing a uniquely masculine act -- followed later by "Jesse's" half-apology in which he tells "Jenny" that "you all I got." The hard, brutal and ruthless prison gang leader had fallen in love with his victim. At another moment, one inmate quibs to another who's been knocked out in an organized boxing match, "how am I gonna get some pu--y with you laying on your back?"

"Penitentiary" is full of moments like these which anyone familiar with the research on prison sexuality will recognize as absolutely true.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars It really gave a good depiction of prison life----not that I knew...
This movie put your boy Leon Issac Kennedy on the map.... His character "Too Sweet" became 1 of the first "black acting roles' that evolved into sequels. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Fresh S-1
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Enjoyed it very much lots of action
Published 3 months ago by Errol M. Hicks
4.0 out of 5 stars Too Sweet! Too Sweet!
Penitentiary deals with black men in prison back in the 70s. Martel ( Too Sweet) is sent there because of a woman he just met, who pinned him for murder. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Terri
4.0 out of 5 stars good buy
i like classic's and im glad it came on time, it was at an awesome affordable price, yes i recommend it
Published 8 months ago by Erica
5.0 out of 5 stars Leon Kennedy Is TOO Sweet!
Trapped inside of a prison for a crime that he did not commit Too Sweet has to learn to survive the best way he can, threw his fist. Read more
Published 10 months ago by columbus tillman
4.0 out of 5 stars Classic
This is a good scared straight movie for teens (not the whole movie just the beginning. So watch it first.
Published 14 months ago by D. S. Kivoi
5.0 out of 5 stars If You are Watching this for the First Time GYL!!
LOOOOOOVE thie move..its a classic the quality is good and the shipment was on time...For this price how can you not add this to your collection!
Published 16 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Good Movie
I ordered this movie for my husband who saw it years ago and wanted to buy it. He enjoys the movie and has shared it with others. Read more
Published 21 months ago by BEW
5.0 out of 5 stars It's like a ...heartbeat!
What can I say? This movie brings back some old memories. Back in the day when me and my buddies would sit around my 13 inch TV set smoking, drinking, checking out this flick on... Read more
Published on November 4, 2011 by J. O. Booker
4.0 out of 5 stars One of the best movies ever
I loved this movie. The plot was good enough to make up for the fact that the dialogue was campy and goofy at times and the acting was sub-par. It's worth a watch. A true classic.
Published on October 2, 2010 by Jheff
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