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Women's Prison
Drama, Noir

1955 | 16:9 | Black & White | Quality: Excellent

Ida Lupino

Jan Sterling

Audrey Trotter, Howard Duff, Warren Stevens


A state prison houses both male and female inmates, with a giant wall separating the two (what could go wrong??). The female wing of the prison is run by the cruel, sadistic warden Amelia van Zandt (Ida Lupino), whose methods instill fear & panic in the inmates and disgust the kindly Doctor Crane (Hoard Duff) who himself attempts to do what good he can for the ladies. Into the prison comes returning hardened inmate Brenda Martin (Jan Sterling), and alongside her is remorseful first-time offender Helene Jensen (Phyllis Thaxter) - a plain housewife convicted of vehicular manslaughter after accidentally killing a child. Over in the men's division, armed robbery convict Glen Burton (Warren Stevens) has found a way to sneak over to the women's side, where he meets up with his wife Joan (Audrey Totter) who is serving time as an accomplice. Scandal erupts when Joan is revealed to be pregnant, and the cruel van Zandt is tasked with uncovering how this could have happened - to the point of even using torture as a means to get the ladies to talk! Tensions in the WOMEN'S PRISON reach a boiling point as the inmates are pushed to their breaking point, as plans for a riot are hatched...

Women's Prison is directed by Lewis Seiler and jointly written by Jack DeWitt and Crane Wilbur. It stars Ida Lupino, Jan Sterling, Cleo Moore, Audrey Totter, Phyliss Thaxter, Howard Duff and Warren Stevens. Music is orchestrated by Mischa Bakaleinikoff and photography by Lester H. White. Cheap but entertaining piece of prison shlock, Women's Prison gets in and simmers on the heat for an hour and ten minutes until the inevitable explosion for the finale. The standard roll call of prison staples adheres to formula, new fish who clearly doesn't belong, sassy good time gal, sadistic warden, beatings, emotional hell, sexual frustration and of course a riot! Whatever its intentions, "Woman's Prison" is just as amusing as it is hard-hitting. Producer Bryan Foy appears to have been aiming for realism heavily dosed with lurid popular appeal. The result is perversely fun. Performances are starchily stilted, which is appropriate. Lewis Seiler and his crew follow and flatter the characters. The best scene is the inevitable riot, which is accomplished by simply stating. "Throw the master switch that opens all the gates." Without fuss, Mr. Seiler and photographer Lester White are effective with smooth inmate panning and shadowy close-ups. In a nice supporting cast, 1930s star Mae Clarke (as Matron Saunders) delivers some great comments about "prison pictures," before seeing one at the Bijou.

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