Riot in Cell Block 11 (1954)

79-80 mins | Drama | 28 February 1954

Director:

Don Siegel

Writer:

Richard Collins

Producer:

Walter Wanger

Cinematographers:

Russell Harlan, George Clemens

Editor:

Bruce B. Pierce

Production Designer:

David Milton

Production Company:

Allied Artists Pictures Corp.
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HISTORY

The film opens with an offscreen narrator relating a semi-documentary account of the riots that have been sweeping U.S. prisons. The film then cuts to a news conference in which Richard A. McGee, a spokesman for the American Prison Association, states that the riots are the result of primitive conditions that are widespread throughout the prison system, conditions that need to be corrected in order to bring an end to the violence. The following written acknowledgment is included in the onscreen credits: "We wish to thank Mr. Richard A. McGee and his staff of the California Department of Corrections, Warden Heinze, Associate Warden Ryan, Correctional officers and the inmates of Folsom Prison for their cooperation."
       According to the reviews, the film was shot entirely at Folsom State Prison in Represa, CA. The production used an empty two-story cell block at the prison. In his autobiography, director Don Siegel stated that Leo Gordon, who played " Crazy Mike Carnie," was an ex-convict who had been imprisoned at San Quentin for five years for robbery. For this reason, Heinze, the Folsom warden, originally objected to Gordon appearing in the film, but Siegel was able to convince him that Gordon was no threat to the prison.
       Riot in Cell Block 11 was the first feature film of director-screenwriter Sam Peckinpah (1925--1984), who worked as a production assistant on the picture. Peckinpah, whose full name was David Samuel Peckinpah, was listed as David Peckinpah in some contemporary sources. As noted in a Jul 1953 news item in LADN , producer Walter Wanger served three months and nine days at the Los Angeles County Honor Farm for ... More Less

The film opens with an offscreen narrator relating a semi-documentary account of the riots that have been sweeping U.S. prisons. The film then cuts to a news conference in which Richard A. McGee, a spokesman for the American Prison Association, states that the riots are the result of primitive conditions that are widespread throughout the prison system, conditions that need to be corrected in order to bring an end to the violence. The following written acknowledgment is included in the onscreen credits: "We wish to thank Mr. Richard A. McGee and his staff of the California Department of Corrections, Warden Heinze, Associate Warden Ryan, Correctional officers and the inmates of Folsom Prison for their cooperation."
       According to the reviews, the film was shot entirely at Folsom State Prison in Represa, CA. The production used an empty two-story cell block at the prison. In his autobiography, director Don Siegel stated that Leo Gordon, who played " Crazy Mike Carnie," was an ex-convict who had been imprisoned at San Quentin for five years for robbery. For this reason, Heinze, the Folsom warden, originally objected to Gordon appearing in the film, but Siegel was able to convince him that Gordon was no threat to the prison.
       Riot in Cell Block 11 was the first feature film of director-screenwriter Sam Peckinpah (1925--1984), who worked as a production assistant on the picture. Peckinpah, whose full name was David Samuel Peckinpah, was listed as David Peckinpah in some contemporary sources. As noted in a Jul 1953 news item in LADN , producer Walter Wanger served three months and nine days at the Los Angeles County Honor Farm for shooting well-known theatrical agent Jennings Lang, whom he suspected of romancing his wife, Joan Bennett. A Mar 1954 LAT news item notes that writers Peggy and Walter McGraw sued Wanger for $3,015,000, claiming that Riot in Cell Block 11 was based on material they wrote. The outcome of that suit has not been determined. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
13 Feb 1954.
---
Daily Variety
8 Feb 54
p. 3.
Film Daily
9 Feb 54
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Aug 1953
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
21 Aug 1953
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
4 Sep 1953
p. 14.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Feb 54
p. 3.
Los Angeles Daily News
25 Jul 1953.
---
Los Angeles Times
17 Mar 1954.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
13 Feb 54
p. 2181.
New York Times
19 Feb 54
p. 24.
Variety
10 Feb 54
p. 6.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Walter Wanger Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITER
Story and scr
PHOTOGRAPHY
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATOR
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod mgr
Prod asst
DETAILS
Release Date:
28 February 1954
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 18 February 1954
Production Date:
mid August--early September 1953
Copyright Claimant:
Allied Artists Pictures Corp.
Copyright Date:
17 February 1954
Copyright Number:
LP3248
Physical Properties:
Sound
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
79-80
Length(in reels):
8
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
16737
SYNOPSIS

In a large state prison, incorrigible inmates are incarcerated in cell block eleven, known as “the punishment block.” After “lights out” one night, Schulyer, one of the convicts, tricks Monroe, a rookie guard, into opening his cell door, then drags him into his cell and savagely beats him. Schuyler then frees Dunn, a fellow convict, who overpowers veteran guard Snader. When Acton, another guard, tries to flee, the inmates wrestle him to the floor and throw open the rest of the cell doors, releasing the convicts. As the inmates riot, hurling the contents of their cells into the corridor, Dunn demands to talk to Warden Reynolds. While sirens signal the uprising and search lights sweep across the yard, Capt. Barrett, the head of the prison guards, relays Dunn’s message to the warden. After calling for order in the cell block, Dunn assumes command along with Crazy Mike Carnie, an inmate who has been transferred from a state mental institution. In the prison yard, Dunn, using Snader as a shield, meets with the warden and demands to be allowed to air his grievances to reporters, then warns that the guards will be killed if his request is denied. While the inmates fabricate primitive lethal weapons, the warden, who has long argued for reforms to eliminate overcrowding and appalling living conditions in the prison, phones the governor, who sends a politician named Haskell to negotiate with the prisoners. In block eleven, Dunn appeals to The Colonel, a former war hero who was imprisoned for manslaughter, to help create a reasoned list of demands. Haskell arrives and blames Dunn for the unrest just ... +


In a large state prison, incorrigible inmates are incarcerated in cell block eleven, known as “the punishment block.” After “lights out” one night, Schulyer, one of the convicts, tricks Monroe, a rookie guard, into opening his cell door, then drags him into his cell and savagely beats him. Schuyler then frees Dunn, a fellow convict, who overpowers veteran guard Snader. When Acton, another guard, tries to flee, the inmates wrestle him to the floor and throw open the rest of the cell doors, releasing the convicts. As the inmates riot, hurling the contents of their cells into the corridor, Dunn demands to talk to Warden Reynolds. While sirens signal the uprising and search lights sweep across the yard, Capt. Barrett, the head of the prison guards, relays Dunn’s message to the warden. After calling for order in the cell block, Dunn assumes command along with Crazy Mike Carnie, an inmate who has been transferred from a state mental institution. In the prison yard, Dunn, using Snader as a shield, meets with the warden and demands to be allowed to air his grievances to reporters, then warns that the guards will be killed if his request is denied. While the inmates fabricate primitive lethal weapons, the warden, who has long argued for reforms to eliminate overcrowding and appalling living conditions in the prison, phones the governor, who sends a politician named Haskell to negotiate with the prisoners. In block eleven, Dunn appeals to The Colonel, a former war hero who was imprisoned for manslaughter, to help create a reasoned list of demands. Haskell arrives and blames Dunn for the unrest just as the reporters are assembling in the warden's office. When the warden escorts the reporters to meet Dunn, Dunn brandishes the leg irons and chains that have been used to restrain the prisoners and issues a diatribe about the inhumane conditions in the prison. After Dunn demands that the conditions be rectified, Haskell calls the demands unreasonable and assumes an intractable stance against the prisoners, threatening to have them all killed unless they surrender. In response, Carnie hurls a knife into Haskell’s chest, wounding him. In the morning, the wounded Haskell joins the warden in the watch tower and observes the guards usher the inmates of cell block four into the mess hall. Emboldened by the riot in block eleven, the inmates of block four rise up and bolt into the prison yard. When cell block five also erupts in violence, the warden sends for the state police who arrive just as the inmates begin to ransack and set fire to the prison buildings. Forming a line, the police move into the yard, firing their rifles and driving the prisoners back into their cell blocks. Although a prison-wide riot has been crushed, eleven prisoners holding nine guards hostage in cell block eleven refuse to surrender. When Dunn learns that one of the prisoners was killed in the melee, he threatens to execute Snader in return. Alarmed, the warden agrees to let Dunn present his list of demands. Dunn then calls on the warden to bring an end to the brutal restraint of prisoners and institute reforms such as job training and the updating of prison facilities. When Dunn also demands that no reprisals be taken against the prisoners who took part in the riots, the outraged Haskell accuses the warden of writing the demands himself and vows to bring the ringleaders to trial. The warden overrules Haskell, however, and asks Dunn to give him six hours to convince the governor to agree to the demands. Back inside block eleven, Dunn is attacked by Mickey, a psychopathic, power-mad convict. Carnie comes to Dunn’s aid, then phones Barrett to announce that he is taking over the leadership from Dunn. To put pressure on the warden, Carnie orders the guards to write goodbye letters to their wives, then reads them over the phone to the sobbing women. While Haskell makes plans to blow up block eleven, the warden pleads with the governor to accede to the prisoners’ demands. When the sadistic Carnie decides to kill Snader, The Colonel rallies the prisoners to oppose him and Dunn is called in to mediate. After Dunn breaks up a fight among the inmates, word comes that plans are afoot to blow up block eleven. When they hear the sound of pick axes striking the side of the building, the inmates realize that they have been double-crossed and lash the guards to the wall. After The Colonel insists that they all surrender, Dunn slugs him and ties him to the wall alongside the guards. The phone rings at the other end of the block just as the prisoners back away, waiting for the explosion. The inmates run to answer it and learn that the governor has agreed to their demands. Dunn refuses to surrender until the story appears in the morning paper, and after the papers are delivered to the prison the next day, the inmates release the guards and give themselves up. Two weeks later, conditions at the prison have still not improved. The warden summons Dunn to his office and informs him that he is being charged with leading a riot and kidnapping the guards, charges that could add thirty years to his sentence. The warden then explains to the dumbfounded Dunn that the legislature, at Haskell’s urging, cancelled the governor’s agreement with the prisoners. The warden concludes by noting that some good has come from the evil, because The Colonel has been granted a parole, Carnie is being sent to a mental institution, and a panel is to be convened to investigate conditions at the prison. Dunn is then escorted back to his cell to face an additional thirty years of confinement. +

GENRE
Genre:
Sub-genre:
Prison


Subject

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

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