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Noir-vember 2015: Revolt in the Big House

Posted by martinteller on November 14, 2015

They’ve finally managed to make a charge stick against big-time baddie Lou Gannon (Gene Evans), and he’s sent up to the pen for 20 years. But he doesn’t intend to stay there long. He teams up with the reigning bully in the prison yard, Ed “Bugsy” Kyle (Timothy Carey) and they start smuggling in gun parts. But when one of their crew gets a bad case of nerves, they look for a replacement. Enter Lou’s cellmate, Rudy Hernandez (Robert Blake), a naive kid who unwillingly drove the getaway car during a liquor store robbery. Rudy’s got a good chance of getting out in three years… until Lou hatches a plot involving Capt. Starkey (Walter Barnes), the racist head guard. A plot that makes Rudy a little more angry, and a little more desperate.

You may have already guessed why I wanted to see this picture. I’m a big fan of Tim Carey, who never fails to command the screen with his huge, often bizarre, performances. Here he’s once again pulling focus every chance he gets, all lunatic sneers and Brando mumbles. There’s just no holding this guy down, and my biggest complaint is that there’s not enough of him in the movie. Blake playing a Hispanic character may raise an eyebrow or two, but he does it with admirable sensitivity and restraint… a slight accent, not cartoonish enough to be truly offensive. As for Evans, he’s fine but didn’t do a lot for me. He’s good enough for a secondary role, but doesn’t have the stuff for a lead.

The film is routine jailbreak stuff, nothing you haven’t seen in earlier, better pictures like CrashoutBrute Force or Riot in Cell Block 11. But the familiar can still be enjoyable, and neither the script nor the direction (R.G. Springsteen, primarily a Western director) falters in any major way. And the film pulls off a neat trick with its bookend scenes. The widescreen cinematography is fine, although the sets definitely look pretty cheap.

Unlikely to top anyone’s list of great prison movies, but an all-around decent flick and an enjoyable way to kill 80 minutes. Rating: Good (75)


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