Riot in Cell Block 11 (1954)    1 Stars



Riot in Cell Block 11 (1954)
Riot in Cell Block 11 (1954)

Director: Don Siegel

Cast: Neville Brand, Emile Meyer, Frank Faylen

Synopsis: Inmates and the warden face off in a hostage crisis, with the media watching.




Riot in Cell Block 11 is an unusual film in that there are no heroes as such, it’s confined to one location, and there are no female characters. It’s social significance is timeless, however – prisoners still riot today, ostensibly for the same reasons depicted in this movie: mistreatment, frustration, lack of stimuli – only the techniques used to quell the riots have changed (I don’t think any commissioner would attempt to halt a riot these days by threatening the rioting prisoners with the noose!).

The film moves briskly along throughout its short running time, and follows an intelligent and believable arc; prison guards are taken hostage, the initial riot spreads to other blocks within the prison, the prisoner’s initial euphoria at overcoming the guards gradually dissolves as factions and in-fighting develop, and a psychopathic bully attempts to take control. The threat of violence is never far away, and when it flares it is explosive and brutal.

While the acting is sometimes a little overwrought – which I guess is par for the course for a 50s B-movie – Neville Brand (Kansas City Confidential, The Desperados) gives a convincing performance as the leader of the rioters; a violent psychopath who has spent most of his adult life in prison, he is probably the closest this movie comes to a (anti-)hero
(Reviewed 1st March 2002)

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