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E 1=- RIOT IN CELL BLOCK 11 Academy: Certificate X Director: Don Siegel W GER (ALTER WANan rhymes" with Stranger) spent some ment on the prison system, But
instead of writing a book he has made a film about it. time recently in prison, as a convict, not a visitor. And like many a literate prisoner before
him, he has made his own corn
ment on the prison system, But Much to his credit, Mr. Wanger has refused to make cinema capital Out of his subject. He has kept melodrama and heroics right out of the picture. Because of this understatement the appeal is more to the intelligence than to the emotions. The prisoners, it is true, look a pretty terrifying lot. Both locale and cast are "the real thing." Much of the film was shot in Folsom Prison, California, and many of the actual prisoners took part in the riot scenes. (I can't see that happening here!)
The actual riot is the logical outcome of a set of circumstances. The tough inmates of Cell Block 11 take advantage of a new, young, kindhearted warden. On a humanitarian pretext he is tricked into opening one of the cells, is immediately knocked out, his keys taken—and the riot is on.
Escape. which the prisoners know is impossible, is not attempted. The plan is to take possession of the block, holding as many warders as they can capture as hostages—and then to demand the warden's and the governor's signatures to a set of prison reforms drawn up by the convicts.
On the face of it --in what we hope is an enlightened age— the demands don't sound in the least fantastic. They are Give us work instead of shutting us up in our cells doing nothing; remove the "nutty" ones to psychiatric institutions; keep "kid" prisoners away from old "lags"; stop using the ball and chain; no reprisals. They also demand the presence of the Press, and this at least is granted. The Press turn up in force, complete with flash bulbs, and the "tabloids" have a field day. When the riot becomes too much for the prison officials to deal with (and by this time the warders are getting badly knocked about) the State police are called in. The State police fire only one bullet; their weapon is mainly gas. On the side of authority meantime. there is the struggle between the humane warden and the intolerant governor. Humanity in the end wins. Mr. Wenger scorned to put on
happy ending with a free pardon for the ringleader. There is no promise of an immediate reform (the State repudiates the document signed by the governor and warden). But, as the warden tells the ringleader, although he may get 30 years for his part in the affair, some good has come out of it. Public interest has been roused; at least one "nutty" one has been sent to an institution. Other reforms may follow. This is a courageous, honest film. America, as usual, doesn't try to n cover up a ugly stain on its civic life. None of the actors is well known, but among the unknowns there has been some astute casting.
THE EGYPTIAN Carlton : Certificate A Director : Michael Curtiz
F there is one thing that Cinema' Scope should avoid it is inordinate length. The human eye and ear— never so fully engaged as now with the giant screen and the stereophonic sound—can take in only so much without becoming, jaded. Long. before the end of "the Egyptian the eye and the ear have had enough. It lasts two hours 20 minutes. The background scene is the groping of Akhnaton (Michael Wilding), who ruled Egypt in the 13th century B.C.—after Monotheism. The actual story concerns the doctor—"The Egyptian" of the title— who is caught up in the vice and intrigues of Thebes. Like Moses, he was abandoned as a baby. His identity, when it is established, gives him the right to sit on the throne of the Pharaohs.
By that time some of the high idealism of Aktmaton has entered his soul and he allows an upstart usurper to reign in his place. Naturally, CinemaScope does not let the matter rest there. The story is set against the gigantic stonework —the temples, tombs and palaces of ancient Egypt, and much scholarly research has gone into the whole production. Spectacularly this is the most exciting reconstruction of the ancient world that the cinema has ever attempted and obviously full use has been made of data revealed by the excavation of the Pharaohs' tombs over the years.
In the title role and playing with conviction and authority is Edmund Purdom, who I understand owes his early education to the Benedictines and later the Jesuits of Stamford Hill, London. This makes his second major role in one week in the West End. Victor Mature and Jean Simmons, without whom no Hollywood spectacle seems to be complete these arc e also there, and how grateful we must be for the presence (in the guise of a one-eyed rogue) of Peter Ustinov, who does what he can to lighten the often heavy going. This is a courageous, honest film. America, as usual, doesn't try to n