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Riot in Cell Block 11 (Criterion Collection) (Blu-ray + DVD)
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
If producer Walter Wanger hadn’t gone to prison for shooting theatrical agent Jennings Lang in the lower region of his body, RIOT IN CELL BLOCK 11 might never have been made. Wanger pulled the weapon on Lang because he believed that the agent was having an affair with his wife, actress Joan Bennett.

The producer only served a four-month term in a minimum-security correctional facility, but he emerged from that experience with some strong feelings about prison reform. That, and the fact that there was a spate of prison riots across the country during the early 1950s, motivated Wanger to make the 1954 film, now a minor classic of the genre.

Written by Richard Collins, directed by Don Siegel and actually shot at Folsom Prison, RIOT IN CELL BLOCK 11 is a vigorous, violent drama about desperate men pushed to their limit; trying to regain a portion of their humanity. The cast is filled with many familiar faces; character actors who seldom got the opportunity during their careers to play roles as rich as these.

Neville Brand and Leo Gordon are the ringleaders of the riot, taking guards as hostages to insure that their demands for better prison conditions are met. Robert Osterloh is another convict, a passive member of the rebellion, who helps Brand better frame the demands, and Emile Meyer, as the warden, and Frank Faylen, as the governor’s representative, are the authority figures.

Siegel’s direction is gritty, fast paced; his scenes often shocking. If the movie has a flaw, it is an over abundance of speechifying about prison reform.

RIOT IN CELL BLOCK 11 has now been released by The Criterion Collection in a 2K digital restoration; two-disc set (Blu-Ray/DVD). Extras include audio commentary by film scholar Matthew H. Bernstein, excerpts from Don Siegel’s autobiography and Stuart Kaminsky’s 1974 book about the director, both read by Siegel’s son, actor Kristoffer Tabori, excerpts from a 1953 radio documentary about prison reform, plus a booklet with an essay by critic Chris Fujiwara, a 1954 article by Walter Wanger and a tribute to Siegel written by director Sam Peckinpah.

© Michael B. Druxman
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on May 26, 2014
Starkly shot in an unused part of Folsom prison with perfect casting of many unknowns and great character actors of the time --director Don Siegel and producer Walter Wanger communicate a vivid variety of inmates in prison --crowded, understaffed conditions --as a riot erupts in cell block 11. Beautiful transfer to blu ray from pristine film elements. Lots of interesting supplements and commentaries, as well. Criterion, you've done it again!
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13 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on January 21, 2014
Leo Gordon, who plays one of the convict leaders was once a convict himself in San Quentin. Gordon served a stretch in San Quentin prison for armed robbery. "Riot in Cell Block 11" was filmed at San Quentin, and many of the guards remembered Gordon from his time there, when he was regarded as a troublemaker. Prison officials would not let Gordon enter and leave the institution with the other cast and crew members; he was only allowed to enter and exit by himself, and was thoroughly searched each time.

This is a very good movie and is a good example of movies made in the 1950', especially when directed by Don Siegel
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on March 31, 2010
great movie , i had it on vhs . this 1954 classic movie needs to be on DVD the film shows neville brand starring in this as one of the inmates that riots for better rights in the prison a very good storyline
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on May 18, 2014
This is a tight, intense "issue oriented" B movie -- a cult classic, with a solid cast of fine character actors, and the film that really established Don Siegel as a solid director. Although it does get a bit preachy on 2 or 3 occasions, it never lags. It's well photographed (at Folsom Prison) and quite engrossing. Criterion did a fine job with the transfer. I gave it 4 stars instead of 5 because it's a bit short on bonus features given that it's a Criterion product and it's price point. Nevertheless, I certainly recommend it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on September 13, 2014
I had never seen this movie before, but it seemed worth a viewing. What a catch! This is an early 1950's movie with a cast of second tier actors such as Faylen and Brand. These folks often had long careers, and I think for many of them, this movie saw their best roles! It's a black & white story of a prison riot. It is a tells its tale without melodrama. It has been considered important in the movements for prison reform during the 50's and 60's.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on July 7, 2015
This film does a fantastic job of describing the pains of prison life in America. The filmmaker Don Siegel is very smart because he portrays the guards, the prison officials, and the prisoners themselves as likeable people in this crime drama, which has to be one of the best American prison films ever made. There aren't any stock characters here, everyone has a moment to shine and show a humane side.

The riot scenes are very well-shot and the film creates a sense of suspense and tension that kept me engaged. Well-made, underrated American crime film.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on May 13, 2014
I bought this mainly because of the director Don Seagel and because it's a Criterion release. I enjoyed the movie very much!
The only 'star' in the movie I knew of was Neville Brand ... but sometimes that can be good because you can just get into the
picture itself more when you don't know all the actors. Seemed pretty realistic to the time period it was made. Will enjoy watching it again.
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on May 20, 2015
You get 5 Xtras with this dvd.
This used to be one of my favorite films not so much now.
Running Time on this is 80 min,I rate this Good and Recommend it.

They should have paid the Correctional Guards more than what they got.
Carnie is 1 Mean Muther and his 2 flunkies are Schuyler and Gator played by Dabbs Greer and Alvy Moore.
Greer was A Character Actor where Moore was A Regular on Green Acres as Hank Kimball 2 of the Greats!
Watch Carnie as he's beating people up he uses A Wide Fist Throw by throwing his body into it and Pow.
By rights the Top Brass should have given it to Schuyler for starting the whole thing.
Both Dunn and Carnie got theirs I wonder if Gator got his too?
Food for thought another good prison picture to watch is I Want To Live! with Susan Hayward.

Film Commentary which is 1 of the Supplements I rate Fair.
Because Matthew is either too Early or too Late when he refers to something.
And the Commentary is Long And Drawn-Out and veer's away from the film at times.
Would have loved it if Brand And Gordon were the narrators but they are both gone now.

1 Supplement is Excerpts From the Director's 1993 Autobiography Read by Kristoffer Tabori.
Who I remember from the Movie Truman Capote's The Glass House his voice is older now of course.
I rate this Supplement Ex Runs 25 min.
This is tricky to run through in its entirety meaning you have to use the buttons on your remote control
to operate this feature,I used On Screen Display+>> Skip which is on my remote.

Another Supplement is Excerpts From 1974 Book read by Tabori I rate this Ex+ Runs 13 min.

And the other Supplement is Excerpts:NBC Radio/The Challenge of Our Prisons which I rate Ex Runs 59 min.
This too is tricky to run through in its entirety meaning you have to use the buttons on your remote control.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on October 8, 2014
Good print of a very good picture. Every once in a while Allied Artists would make a film that looked better than a TV show and this is one of them. Good performances combined with tight Don Siegel direction.
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