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Penitentiary (DVD)

4.4 out of 5 stars 39 customer reviews

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(Jan 24, 2006)
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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.

Special Features

None.

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 (39 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: 6305582726
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #169,962 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Penitentiary (DVD)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By J. O. Booker on November 4, 2011
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
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 video tape and rewinding it over and over to the funny parts like the brother with the broken cigarette sticking out his ear; the part when Big Jess clocks "Genie" for standing up to use the toilet; the part where the brothers are out in the yard dancing; the part where an inmate planning to rape another inmate says to his partner: "relax, Dead. Wait a few days, so we can set the booty up right."

This is "the" buddy movie for me growing up in my late teens. Basically, it's about a brother named Too Sweet who is set up and goes down for killing a racist hillbilly. Once he's sent up to the 'pen, the film becomes about survival and maintaining his sense of who and what he is against predators, like Half-Dead, probably the ugliest dude in the history of motion pictures, and homosexuals who have surrendered their manhood. But Too Sweet is a fighter both in his cell and also in the boxing-for-booty tournaments that take place in the film. His only friend is an institutionalized old head with a white fro named Hezekiah who has long stopped dreaming of being free and "deals with the meat" inside the walls.

This is one of the best Black films ever made and one of the best films about prison life, if not the funniest.
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
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. From an old trainer named Seldom Seen, Too Sweet learns to channel his rage by focusing his talent inside of the boxing ring. excellent movie.
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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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By BEW on January 9, 2013
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
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. Great movie about life behind bars and how one's life can change in a moment.
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Classic! This was the breakout movie for Leon Isaac Kennedy who stars in it as Too Sweet! This man can not only act, but he can fight. He's a true hero, with one of the best fights in cinematic history as he fights for his manhood against massive cell mate, Half Dead. You will be cheering for Too Sweet. It's raw & real take on prison life and is a cult film.
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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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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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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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