Saturday, January 21, 2012
I've viewed all the movies in the PENITENTIARY trilogy back in the VHS days and I remember little bits and pieces from each one. Don't ask me what scene is from which movie though since they've all kinda blurred together in my mind. I know Mr. T is in part 2 and I know there's a midget called "The Big Thump" or something like that in part 3 but the only thing I recalled from the first one was that it was the obviously lowest-budgeted of them all so upon viewing this again recently it was almost like watching a completely new film. This must be what Alzheimer's disease is like. What a joy it will be to watch TAXI DRIVER all fresh again when I'm 87 years young.
Being on a low-budget definitely works in this films favor giving it a more gritty and dirty look and making it seem like a place you never want to end up especially if you're a white guy since about 95% of the inmates here are black fellows and from what I know of prison life racism is still very popular there.
Most people would probably rate the Sean Penn movie BAD BOYS as the best example of a men-in-prison film but I would put this series over that just for my personal love of the exploitation elements present and you're just in for a better time watching it. It's interesting that this movie played in grindhouse as well as arthouse theaters upon it's initial release. I guess the more dramatic scenes with the wise old black trainer do add a little deeper meaning than your typical sweaty guys shanking each other flick but not enough to distract from the more sleazy parts. Even if this first part is the least memorable it's still a fun watch for some jailhouse brawling action. You also get the expected man-on-man action and that includes some off-screen ass-raping. Also a boxing movie is mixed in for added manly thrills. Also look for Porky from PORKY'S as the sweaty rotund warden which is a perfect role for him really.
I love how a funky rock band just starts jamming in the prison yard. Reality maybe wasn't the strongest aspect of this film: