Girls in Prison

(John McNaughton, USA, 1994)


For me, the best testament to Samuel Fuller from the last years in which he lived and worked is John McNaughton’s cable telemovie Girls in Prison (1994), part of a series of remakes, from a script by Fuller and his wife Christa Lang.

McNaughton gives it his all but graciously subsumes his own sensibility within that of Fuller’s – without ever turning it into a laborious exercise of homage.

As distinct from the generally lazy, camp vein of most of the other ’50s remakes in the bunch, this is a wonderfully straight politicisation of a pulp movie.

The film hurls in everything – blacklist, war, media corruption – and binds it to the collective hysterias of women who find solidarity behind bars. As is the rule in the Fuller universe, violence is either a matter of evil, or of righteous justice – that is, always a matter of morality and the fight to preserve some semblance of civilisation, no matter how crazy the human race is at heart.

The leading actors – Missy Crider, Anne Heche, Ione Skye – are all superb.

In a way, Girls in Prison is Shock Corridor (1963) with a happy ending: the final, in-concert reprise of the lilting Country’n’Western tune that structures the whole story, “Endless Sleep”.

MORE McNaughton: Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, Mad Dog and Glory, Speaking of Sex, Wild Things

© Adrian Martin July 2002

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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