(director: Buzz Kulik; screenwriter: James Poe/novel “The Riot” by Frank Elli; cinematographer: Robert B. Hauser; editor: Edwin H. Bryant ; music: Krzysztof Komeda; cast: Jim Brown (Cully Briston), Gene Hackman (Red Fraker), Mike Kellin (Bugsy), Gerald S. O’Loughlin (Grossman), Ben Carruthers (Surefoot), Bill Walker (Jake), Jerry Thomson (Fisk), Frank E. Eyman (Warden), Clifford David (Mary); Runtime: 97; MPAA Rating: R; producer: William Castle; Olive Film (Paramount); 1969)
“For entertainment value give me those Cagney prison flicks any day.“
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Veteran TV director Buzz Kulik(“The Hunter”/”Villa Rides”/”To Find A Man”) helms a decent exploitation prison drama programmer, that was filmed inside the Arizona State Prison with the real warden (Frank E. Eyman) and the prisoners as extras. Ex-NFL football star turned actor, Jim Brown, is solid.
Riot is based on the novel “The Riot” by Frank Elli, who served time in a Minnesota prison, and is written by James Poe. The master of schlock producer William Castle generated publicity by exploiting its authenticity with a premiere in the prison where filmed.
Black prisoner Cully Briston (Jim Brown) has only a few months before his release, but has little choice but to help ringleader Red Fraker (Gene Hackman) make a break. While the warden is away, Red and 35 inmates take over the isolation wing and take the guards as hostages. Tension builds as the rioters are violently subdued by the police before they execute their escape plans. Their actions result in such horrors as a stark throat-slitting and revenge offenses from past grievances.
Mike Kellin is Hackman’s wisecracking sidekick. Ben Carrithers is the very dangerous psycho inmate. Clifford David is the queer drag queen.
The bloody melodrama is well-made and for shock value explores prison culture deeper than most Hollywood prison dramas, but it lacks suspense, credible characters and purpose. For entertainment value give me those Cagney prison flicks any day.
REVIEWED ON 12/30/2014 GRADE: B-