We tend to think of the Fifties as the era of Disneyland, Leave It To Beaver, and middle-class conformity. In fact, it was a time of political ferment and social change. That ferment exploded in the Sixties, but it had to start somewhere.
The prison reform movement was one of many to take hold of the public imagination. It certainly captured the imagination of writer-director Crane Wilbur. The result was an odd little movie with an odd title: Inside The Walls Of Folsom Prison. Odd is this week’s secret word. Where the hell is the duck?
With a title like that, it sounds like a documentary, right? Wrong. It’s a scripted drama with some well-known player such as Steve Cochran and David Brian. They’re the guys goofing around in the featured image. Smirk, Steve, smirk.
The film ticks all the prison movie boxes: sadistic warden and guards, rebellious inmates, and a prison break. David Brian appears on the scene as a penal professional determined to clean up Folsom Prison. The movie claims that it happened after a 1944 bill passed by the California lege. The movie purportedly shows Folsom Prison before its act was cleaned up.
In case you’re wondering where the movie was shot, I’ll let the good people at TCM fill you in:
Portions of the film were shot on location at Folsom Prison, according to reviews and several news articles. A January 1951 New York Times news item reported that special precautions had to be taken while filming within the prison walls, and that the 100 cast and crew members on location had mug shots taken by prison authorities. As prisoners were not to be photographed, prison guards, dressed as prisoners, were used as extras. According to an October 1950 Hollywood Reporter news item, many crew members bunked in jail cells.”
There are good performances by David Brian, Steve Cochran, and Philip Carey all of whom have done time in this feature, especially the Elvis of film noir, Steve Cochran:
The movie is an oddity. It’s narrated by the prison itself. Playing Folsom Prison is actor Charles Lung. I am not making this up.
I dig this awkwardly posed image of Steve Cochran, Dorothy Hart, and David Brian.
Now that we’ve gone from lungs to harts, the eyes have it.
Grading Time: I give Inside The Walls Of Folsom Prison 2 1/2 stars and an Adrastos grade of C+.
Before getting all arty and shit, Johnny Cash said that he was inspired to write one of his best songs, Folsom Prison Blues, after seeing this week’s movie.
Inside The Walls Of Folsom Prison was a low budget flick so the art on both the long and quad posters is the same.
I need a snack. Let’s all go to the lobby.
I had some Hot Tamales and a medium Coke. The popcorn was moving too fast for me to catch it.
It’s lobby card time. Again, low budget movies have rudimentary posters. Make that cheap.
There’s no trailer online and while I saw Inside The Walls Of Folsom Prison on TCM, it was not on Noir Alley. Good news: Eddie will be back on Saturday.
The last word goes to Keb Mo with his cover of the Johnny Cash classic: