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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

'The Big House' DVD: 'Caged' Men and the Women Who Love Them

The Big House Triple-Feature (English, Spanish, French)
Warner Archive goes international regarding the DVD release of the Best Picture and Best Actor nominated 1930 "life behind bars" classic "The Big House" in that this set includes the concurrently produced French and Spanish language versions of this tale of cons, screws, and the women who love them. The French version is particularly memorable in that it stars Charles Boyer.

The logic behind filming the international versions of these moivies is to facilitate distributing these films in overseas markets.

"House" is also notable for being an early example of a film that portrays a particularly rough life that no one relishes and that most of us never  experience. These depictions of beatings, betrayals, and banishment are guilty pleasures with subliminal messages regarding a need for prison reform.

Thanks to Archive, folks with an interest in this genre have a second chance to see the very recently re-released "broads behind bars" classic "Caged." Unreal TV reviewed the earlier release of this one in June 2013.

"House" begins with the "unfortunate incarceration" of Kent, played by matinee idol Robert Montgomery, who is facing hard time for manslaughter; overcrowding (and a presumed desire to show this new fish the realities of prison life) lead to putting Kent in a cell that is barely large enough for two with the savvy Morgan and vicious killer Butch.

A scene in which the warden and a veteran guard discuss this housing decision is one of the best in the film.

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of Kent's arrival and processing gets this film off a great start that the Oscar-winning script keeps going to the end.
 
The great Wallace Beery, who has 239 acting credits, deserves mention for  a wonderful job portraying the viciousness of Butch. Examples include Butch quickly showing Kent who's boss and teaching him that snitches get stitches.

The scenes depicting Kent's orientation to his new life provide the audience typical scenes of guests of the state who take time from paying their debts to society to mentally and physically torment their fellow inmates. The psychological torture that Kent endures arguably is just as rough as the physical threats and harm. Acquiring false hope can be as tough as an especially rough hosing in the shower.

As advertised on the back cover of this two-disc set, "House" also depicts the "dark agony of the hole" in a penetrating look at Morgan getting swallowed up in a dark tight space.

Morgan surviving his involuntary time in the hole only to have his impending release from prison delayed prompts a not-so-daring escape and subsequent prison-related romance on the outside. The ensuing events can be considered a real riot in a few senses.

Saying more would ruin the impact of this film, which sends a message that state and federal officials who oversee prison systems seem to not have learned in the almost 85 years since the making of this film.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "House" is encouraged to email me. You can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.