(director/writer: J Lee-Thompson; screenwriters: from the novel “Who Lie in Gaol” by Joan Henry/Joan Henry/Joan Henry/Anne Burnaby; cinematographer: Gilbert Taylor; editor: Richard Best; music: Leighton Lucas; cast:  Glynis Johns (Jean Raymond),  Diana Dors (Betty Brown), John Gregson (Michael Hale), Jean Taylor-Smith (Warden at Grange), Joan Haythorne (Prison governor, Blackdown ), Cecil Trouncer ( Judge), Anthony Nicholls (Chaplain), Jane Hylton (Babs Peters, inmate), Rachel Roberts (Pat, pregnant inmate), Olive Sloane (Nellie Baden, inmate), Sidney James (Syd Baden), Eliot Makeham (Grandad Baden), Athene Seyler (Millie Williams, inmate), Joyce Heron (Prison Matron Arnold), Sybil Thorndike (Mabel Wicks, Millie’s friend), A.E. Matthews (Harry Wicks, Mabel’s beau), Josephine Stuart (Andy, pregnant inmate), Ursula Howells (Pam), Edwin Styles (Seymour, casino owner); Runtime: 88; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Victor Skutezy; Allied Artists; 1953-B/W-UK)

Seemed as weak as the prison characters who were depicted as weak.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

J Lee-Thompson (“The Yellow Balloon”/”Tiger Bay”) is the English writer and director of this predictable and not too exciting woman-in-prison melodrama from England. At least it’s not an exploitation film, as these type of lady prison films became in the 1970s on. Also, it’s well-acted by the ensemble cast and well-directed. The story is based on the autobiographical novel “Who Lie in Gaol” by Joan Henry, and is co-written by the director, the author and Anne Burnaby. The film’s imprisoned star is a surrogate for the author, who had a gambling problem and served 8 months in prison for check fraud. The other characters are based on those she met in prison. Of interest to film buffs, is that in 1958 the novelist Joan Henry married the director, J Lee-Thompson.

The middle-class Jean Raymond (Glynis Johns) loves to gamble. She loves to gamble so much, she goes to a casino despite her doctor boyfriend, Micheal Hale (John Gregson), warning her if she gambles he’ll leave her. She loses Michael and also loses at the casino. She writes a check that won’t cover her losses and the slimy casino owner (Edwin Styles) schemes to get even with Jean, and hires a casino patron Pam (Ursula Howells) to befriend her and steal her valuable lighter and pawn it. When Jean tries to collect insurance on it, she’s arrested for insurance fraud, as Pam tells the cops where she hid the pawn ticket that Jean gets blamed for. Michael returns to visit her in the holding cell and say he’ll keep in touch with her.

At the prison Jean becomes best friends with Betty Brown (Diana Dors), who foolishly loves her rotten boyfriend thief. He left her holding his stolen merchandise, in which she took the 2 year rap for. The framed Jean is sentenced to a year in Blackdown prison.

In prison, a series of flashbacks detail how the lady prisoners got there. The funniest story was how Nellie Baden (Olive Sloane), the matriarch of a shoplifting family, got caught in a department store and was sent to prison.

With Jean and Betty being model prisoners, they get sent to the Grange, an experimental prison without bars. It’s a prison where no one ever escaped.

Betty is downcast because her good for nothing boyfriend never visits, and she wants another chance to see him because she thinks she can win him back from his new girlfriend. Though thinking of going back to London to see him, she doesn’t.

The portmanteau drama was hokey, and seemed as weak as the prison characters who were depicted as weak.

      Dors and Glynis Johns in The Weak and the Wicked (1954)

REVIEWED ON 8/27/2020  GRADE: C+