Riot in Cell Block 11 Screen 6 articles

Riot in Cell Block 11

1954

Riot in Cell Block 11 Poster
  • Riot In Cell Block 11... plays like the mutant offspring of a didactic message movie and a rip-roaring exploitation flick, with Siegel clearly doing his best to make something tough-minded and entertaining while still honoring Wanger’s desire to educate the American public and perhaps inspire change. It can be a pretty bumpy ride at times... but enough of Siegel’s muscular sensibility gets through to make the film a fascinating curio in the annals of low-budget Hollywood.

  • Matching the film's hard-knuckle characterizations, Siegel's style is a blunt object of expression with an integrity all its own. Framing much of the action in long shots, a seemingly antithetical approach to hands-on action choreography, Siegel and cinematographer Russell Harlan manage to make such removed perspectives feel appropriately inclusive, echoing the democratic empathy granted to each faction of the conflict.

  • The tension between dignity and violence is amplified by Siegel’s camera. Cell Block’s authentic locations and use of real prisoners give a sense of character to every shot, especially in the mass-scale photography that displays a wobbly group dynamic between Neville Brand’s leader and those secretly dissenting — often for comic effect

  • One of the best of all prison pictures, thanks not only to Don Siegel's sharp direction and a good script (by Richard Collins), but also to the creative input of producer Walter Wanger, who had been an inmate himself and was concerned about making this as authentic and as commercially uncompromised as possible.

  • What can be said of the visual style of Riot other than that it is both perverse in its inexpressiveness and sublime in its functionality? The film is tight and economical in its emphasis on physical evidence, on what reveals itself fully just in being seen: the arrival of the state police, their clash with the prisoners, the uniformed guards carrying the morning news¬papers across the yard.

  • The reformist argument articulated in the movie by the warden (Emile Meyer) is Wanger’s, and the sense of desperate prisoners organizing to improve their conditions may have come from Collins, but the anarchic euphoria of the revolt is pure Siegel. “Riot” was the movie that gave this great action director the first of his many anti-heroes in the person of the uprising’s architect, played by the gravel-voiced Neville Brand, a menacing swaggerer who muscles his way through every scene.

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