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HISTORY

According to a DV news item on 26 Oct 1954, The Steel Cage was comprised of "three telepix which didn't make the grade" which had been shot in Jan 1953 and were planned as part of a Duffy of San Quentin television series. Producer Berman Swarttz and director Walter Doniger had previously made the feature film Duffy of San Quentin (see above) starring Paul Kelly and Maureen O'Sullivan. In The Steel Cage , O'Sullivan is seen, very briefly, only in the first story. Actor Ian Wolfe did not act in the film, but his image was used for the portrait of "Simon Peter" in the priest/artist story.
       The file on the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library reveals that the PCA received a complaint from the National Catholic Legion of Decency that "the presentation of the priest in no way enhanced the Roman Catholic Priesthood and could, by inference, have a deleterious effect on religion in general." The Legion also thought that the priest was shown as "too weak and incompetent for his role as a prison chaplain." Because the film was submitted late to the PCA, the release print bore no Certificate number, although one was issued on 17 Sep ... More Less

According to a DV news item on 26 Oct 1954, The Steel Cage was comprised of "three telepix which didn't make the grade" which had been shot in Jan 1953 and were planned as part of a Duffy of San Quentin television series. Producer Berman Swarttz and director Walter Doniger had previously made the feature film Duffy of San Quentin (see above) starring Paul Kelly and Maureen O'Sullivan. In The Steel Cage , O'Sullivan is seen, very briefly, only in the first story. Actor Ian Wolfe did not act in the film, but his image was used for the portrait of "Simon Peter" in the priest/artist story.
       The file on the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library reveals that the PCA received a complaint from the National Catholic Legion of Decency that "the presentation of the priest in no way enhanced the Roman Catholic Priesthood and could, by inference, have a deleterious effect on religion in general." The Legion also thought that the priest was shown as "too weak and incompetent for his role as a prison chaplain." Because the film was submitted late to the PCA, the release print bore no Certificate number, although one was issued on 17 Sep 1954. More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
30 Oct 1954.
---
Daily Variety
20 Jul 1954.
---
Daily Variety
2 Oct 54
p. 3.
Daily Variety
26 Oct 1954.
---
Film Daily
19 Nov 54
p. 14.
Hollywood Reporter
25 Oct 54
p. 3.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
30 Oct 54
pp. 193-94.
The Exhibitor
3 Nov 54
p. 3864.
Variety
27 Oct 54
p. 7.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
WRITERS
Scr of "The Chef"
Scr of "The Chef"
Scr of "The Hostages"
Story of "The Hostages"
Story of "The Hostages"
Scr of "The Face"
Story of "The Face"
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTOR
FILM EDITORS
Ed adpt
SET DECORATORS
Set dresser
Prop master
COSTUMES
Ward
VISUAL EFFECTS
MAKEUP
Makeup
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod supv
Scr supv
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the book The San Quentin Story by Clinton T. Duffy and Dean Jennings (New York, 1950).
DETAILS
Release Date:
November 1954
Production Date:
January 1953 at Motion Picture Center Studio
Copyright Claimant:
Phoenix Films, Inc.
Copyright Date:
10 October 1954
Copyright Number:
LP4096
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Recording
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
80
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
17212
SYNOPSIS

Warden Clinton T. Duffy of San Quentin penitentiary introduces three short stories about prison life: Prisoner Billy Brenner, a gourmet, is dismayed to discover that Louis, the prison's head chef, is about to be paroled and offers him two hundred dollars a week to stay. However, Louis leaves and obtains a position as chef at a high-class restaurant where his girl friend Marie also works. One evening, a very particular customer visits the restaurant and Louis suggests a special dinner. When the customer is not totally pleased with the first course, Louis, who has a problem controlling his temper, manages to remain calm. After another course is rejected, Louis presents his coq au vin specialty whereupon the customer brings out a bottle of ketchup and slathers it over the dish. This enrages Louis, who then smashes a plate over the customer's head, thereby breaking not only the plate, but also the conditions of his parole. After Louis is returned to the prison, his assistant Solly tells him that a week before the incident in the restaurant occurred, he had heard that Louis would be coming back. Louis realizes that he has been framed by Brenner and his pals and deliberately prepares inedible meals for them. Meanwhile, Mrs. Duffy discovers that the restaurant customer was an ex-con and confidence man named Gilbert Lee, alias "Phil the Hook," and tells her husband. Fed up with the poor food, a number of the convicts tell Louis that Brenner planned the whole thing. Louis then threatens Brenner with a meat cleaver and forces him to eat rice pudding covered with ketchup. Later, after Duffy informs Louis that ... +


Warden Clinton T. Duffy of San Quentin penitentiary introduces three short stories about prison life: Prisoner Billy Brenner, a gourmet, is dismayed to discover that Louis, the prison's head chef, is about to be paroled and offers him two hundred dollars a week to stay. However, Louis leaves and obtains a position as chef at a high-class restaurant where his girl friend Marie also works. One evening, a very particular customer visits the restaurant and Louis suggests a special dinner. When the customer is not totally pleased with the first course, Louis, who has a problem controlling his temper, manages to remain calm. After another course is rejected, Louis presents his coq au vin specialty whereupon the customer brings out a bottle of ketchup and slathers it over the dish. This enrages Louis, who then smashes a plate over the customer's head, thereby breaking not only the plate, but also the conditions of his parole. After Louis is returned to the prison, his assistant Solly tells him that a week before the incident in the restaurant occurred, he had heard that Louis would be coming back. Louis realizes that he has been framed by Brenner and his pals and deliberately prepares inedible meals for them. Meanwhile, Mrs. Duffy discovers that the restaurant customer was an ex-con and confidence man named Gilbert Lee, alias "Phil the Hook," and tells her husband. Fed up with the poor food, a number of the convicts tell Louis that Brenner planned the whole thing. Louis then threatens Brenner with a meat cleaver and forces him to eat rice pudding covered with ketchup. Later, after Duffy informs Louis that his parole has been reinstated, he hands his chef's hat to Solly and leaves to meet Marie, as Lee joins the prisoners' ranks.
       Warden Duffy's second story concerns an attempted prison break from an isolation area: One night, prisoner Chet Harmon feigns illness and Frank, a male orderly and prisoner, is summoned. Frank's brother Al, who is in an adjacent cell, tells Frank that he and Chet are planning a breakout and that he has to help. Frank is reluctant to assist as he just wants to serve his time and leave, but after a new prisoner sows doubts in Frank's mind about his girl friend's faithfulness, he decides to help. Later, while the prison doctor is examining Chet, Frank removes a gun from the doctor's medical bag and slips it into an unoccupied cell. When Frank is on his way out, he attacks a guard named Pete and is put in the cell where he placed the gun. With Al's help, Frank passes the gun to Chet. Another prisoner, Square, is also in on the escape. Three days later, when two members of the prison board, Garvey and Ferness, visit the cells on a routine inspection, Chet uses the gun to take Garvey and Pete prisoner and locks them in a cell. Chet then releases Al, Square and Frank and, using Ferness as a hostage, phones Duffy to demand that a car be delivered to the gate and that they be given a two-hour head start. When Duffy refuses to cooperate, Chet tells the warden that in ten minutes' time he will begin to kill the hostages. Frank wants nothing to do with killing, but while he and Al discuss this, Chet kills Pete and sends his body to Duffy. After Duffy reports to his chief, Square arranges that Duffy come, under a truce, to negotiate. Duffy tells Chet that his chief will be coming within two hours to make a deal. However, Chet then attempts to add Duffy to the hostages, prompting Square, who had given Duffy his word regarding the truce, to tackle Chet. Frank helps but is shot and seriously wounded by Chet, who then kills Square. Duffy says that Frank will die, but refuses to summon the doctor until they abandon the break. When Al, desperate to help his brother, goes to the phone to call the doctor, Chet threatens to shoot him, but Al draws a knife. Chet shoots him, but Al sinks the knife into Chet and they both die.
       Duffy's final story is about a prisoner's need to find a purpose in life: When Duffy shows new prison chaplain Father Harvey around the chapel, the priest is saddened to see that a mural of "The Last Supper" has been damaged by rusty water pipes. After Shorty, a convict who is to assist Harvey, tells him that a prisoner named Steinberg, who is serving a life sentence for murdering his wife and her lover, is a very fine artist, Harvey persuades Steinberg to repair the mural. Access to the chapel is important to Shorty and his pal Mike as they plan to make bootleg liquor in an attic they can reach only from the chapel. Steinberg agrees to assist their project in return for a cut of the sales. Steinberg, who is an atheist and resents the priest's artistic supervision of his work, begins the restoration work with the face of Simon Peter. When Harvey discovers that the face Steinberg has given Simon Peter is that of a prisoner who was executed on the eve of Harvey's arrival, the priest accuses Steinberg of mocking religion and demands that he be disciplined and lose certain privileges for a week. Later, Steinberg discovers that Shorty and Mike are really planning a breakout via the attic and may take Harvey as a hostage. Steinberg resumes his work and finishes the face of Matthew. Meanwhile, Harvey is concerned about how he will deal with an imminent execution, and when he goes to Charlie Rivers' cell to hear his final confession, he realizes that Steinberg has given Matthew the condemned man's face. After Rivers tells Harvey that he is innocent and begs him to intervene, the priest talks with Duffy, who regrets that he is powerless and states that the horrible thing about capital punishment is that you never can be sure about guilt and innocence. This increases Harvey's anguish and, although he agrees to accompany Rivers to the execution chamber, he collapses on the way. Rivers then tells the priest that he is really guilty and seeks his help on his final journey. That night, Harvey tells Steinberg how Rivers helped him and admits that he has been prejudicial. Later, Shorty, who has become the model for the mural's Judas, Mike and Steinberg take Harvey hostage at gunpoint and attempt to break out. After Mike is killed by guards, Shorty has Harvey phone Duffy to arrange their release, but Duffy tells him that the guards have orders to shoot, regardless of who the hostage may be. Steinberg then tackles Shorty, refusing to permit the possible killing of the priest. Although Shorty mortally wounds him, they continue to struggle until Shorty falls on top of Steinberg and the gun goes off, killing Shorty. Father Harvey prays over Steinberg's body. Later, Harvey engages another artist to finish the mural, with the face of Christ to be Steinberg's. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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