Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Women's Prison

This film gets off to a pretty good start with Phyllis Thaxter and Jan Sterling arriving for a stay in the Women’s prison. Thaxter (was there a duller actress in films than her?) arrives looking like she’s on her way to a luncheon at her women’s club. She’s in for 1 to 10 for running over and killing a little girl, and Jan is back again for writing bad checks. Jan throws off some nice zingers and calls everyone hon or kid or honey. Jan is swell. She’s tough but kind, and soon we meet some of the other broads in the pen. There’s Audrey Totter who is an innocent accomplice to her husband’s crime of robbery, but still got convicted, Cleo Moore who obviously is a girl of the night who wants to learn how to talk good English and Juanita Moore as Polyclinic 'Polly' Jones who we first see washing the floors and singing a hymn. Love Juanita and an actress unknown to me Vivien Marshall as Dottie LaRose who does some wicked imitations of Bette Davis, Tallulah Bankhead and Ida Lupino that serve as a plot device later in the movie. Also in the cast in a pop up cameo is Mae Clarke as a prison matron who is most known to movie audiences for taking a grapefruit in the kisser from James Cagney in Public Enemy. Then on comes Miss Ida Lupino playing very mean and nasty as the women’s prison warden Amelia van Zandt, and with a name like that you know she’s just going to be a bundle of trouble. Ida looking very nice in tailored shirts with Peter Pan collars ,slightly above the knee skirts and wearing a nice wig. (Ida was bald from a childhood illness, and always wore wigs) is just awful to the girls especially the fragile Phyllis Thaxter who is promptly thrown into isolation and comes very close to having a nervous breakdown. I mean what girl wouldn’t be close to a breakdown with Ida breathing down her neck. Ida is very mean to her and has Phyllis put into a straight jacket and thrown into a padded cell, where Phyllis literally bounces off the walls and freaks out big time. But thanks to the good but very dull doctor played by the not so good and very dull Howard Duff, who was married to Lupino in real life, she is put into the infirmary to rest and heal. Well when Ida finds out about this the shit as they say hits the fan and all sorts of hell breaks loose. There are also side plots with Totter’s hubby played by the attractive Warren Stevens finding a way to get from the men’s side of the prison (yes the prison is divided into men and women sections) into the women’s side so he can visit with Audrey and get her pregnant. And don’t ask what happens when Ida learns about this. Everything comes to a big fat boil that finally pops and the girls throw a hissy fit riot and take over the joint. Poor Ida who was not all there to begin with has a mad scene, in which she chews up every piece of the scenery she can get her hands and teeth on and winds up in a straight jacket and a padded cell herself. I kept seeing Charles Busch doing this role, in fact I kept seeing him doing all the roles, and maybe he has. No doubt this film has influenced many drag queens and camp plays and movies, and I think I’m making this lousy film sound better than it really is. Cheap looking, badly written by Jack DeWitt the screenwriter of such films as Bomba, The Jungle Boy, The Lost Volcano and Don Ricardo Returns. and with lackluster direction by hack Lewis Seiler and not a Lesbian in sight. If you do have a craving for a dames in prison flick stick with the very superior “Caged” from 1950


Post a Comment

<< Home

Site Meter