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Review - Prison: The Collector's Edition

Source: PopMatters.
Found By: Chrissie
Categories: Media Movies Prison Reviews
Chrissie brings us this review for the Prison Blu-ray.

'Prison: The Collector's Edition' Is a Fine Reissue of the 1988 Viggo Mortensen Horror Nugget

Blu-ray Cover
Blu-ray Cover.
© Shout Factory.
by David Maine

Against all odds, this is a pretty great little movie. Shot in 1988 with a young Viggo Mortensen with Finnish director Renny Harlin at the helm, Prison manages to parlay its low budget into some pretty effective scenes. It's helped immensely by decent special-effects work and solid performances from a committed cast, including Lane Smith as evil prison warden Eaton Sharpe. Throw in plenty of atmospheric lighting, some genuinely jolting moments, a set that's reconstructed from an abandoned prison and a supporting cast made up of real prisoners serving time, and you've got the formula for a nifty little thriller.

Equal parts ghost story and jailhouse drama, Prison makes good use of its locale. From the opening scene, when a condemned prisoner is walked to the electric chair, until its final moments, little time is wasted in getting the story rolling and in keeping it moving along.

In brief: the ghost of an executed prisoner returns decades later to wreak havoc on the man who condemned him. That's all you really need to know going in. Sure, there are details and subplots and complications, not to mention a twist at the end (that you can probably see coming from a mile away), but that's all just window dressing. The point is, what's more dangerous than a convicted criminal with nothing to lose? The answer: a convicted criminal's ghost who has already lost everything. Pass the popcorn, please.

This was an early role for Mortensen, who would go on to fame in The Lord of the Rings, Eastern Promises and The Road, among other films. It's interesting to watch him here as he channels a James Dean vibe, with his wedge-cut hair and sulky, almost shy delivery. He rises to the occasion when the dramatic scenes demand it, but for much of the movie his presence borders on the self-effacing, in contrast to his later work.

Mortensen is ably supported by a group of actors playing his fellow inmates, including Ivan Kane as an Italian stallion nicknamed Lasagna, and Tom "Tiny" Lister playing an enormously buff guy named, of course, Tiny. Rounding out the prison cast are the real prisoners themselves, inmates at a Wyoming state penitentiary who were shuttled over from an existing facility to the abandoned one where filming took place. Their faces and body language lend an air of quiet menace to even the most innocuous scenes - not that many scenes here qualify as "innocuous".

The story arc is predictable enough - vengeful spirit returns from the grave and, well, wreaks vengeance - but the film's visual flair and storytelling momentum keep the formula fresh. Constricted by a low budget, the director and crew do a fine job of suggesting menace via plenty of shadows, lightning bolts and bursts of otherworldly blue glare, along with a score that helps propel things along without ever seeming overbearing. The action sequences are well-executed, exciting without being confusing, and - sorry to keep harping on this - are all the more effective for being set in the claustrophobic confines of a prison.

Shout! Factory's series of horror/slasher reissues from the '80s, under its imprint Scream! Factory, continues to impress with its pairing of excellent prints in DVD/blu-ray packages with interesting extras. The picture quality here is superb, with clear sound and a sharp image that's never muddy despite the many shadowy nighttime scenes. Short of a Criterion Collection release, this 2-disc release is likely to be the cleanest copy of the film that you'll ever see.

Included on the disc is a 38-minute documentary on the making of Prison entitled "Hard Time", which features interesting recollections from director Harlin as well as producer Irwin Yablans and executive producer Charles Band. Among other topics, the use of prisoners in the filming is discussed, as well as the special effects (which are impressive for a movie of this budget). Other features are less interesting - an audio commentary from Harlin which is more enthusiastic than enlightening, some stills of the Wyoming prison where the movie was shot, and a couple of trailers - but also included is a pdf file of the original first-draft screenplay, of potential interest to would-be screenwriters and others curious about the machinations of putting together a film.

Not all of Scream! Factory's reissues are this good - in fact, many of them have been so-so at best. But viewers looking for one more nugget of '80s horror are in luck: this is a fine example of what can be done with limited means and a concerted effort on the part of all involved.

© PopMatters. Images © Shout Factory.

Iolanthe's Quotable Viggo

In last week's The Road Quotable we looked at how the film was cast and how Viggo approached playing the character of The Man. But both on screen and off, this was a journey taken by two people. And all the filming and acting difficulties faced by Viggo were also faced by Kodi ? a huge challenge for a young actor and one which Viggo did everything in his power to make easier, sharing jokes, football, and probably a lot of chocolate as well as they battled the cold and wet.

" was a chamber of horrors. But, I was on the journey together with Kodi."

Interview: Viggo Mortensen Travels THE ROAD
Christina Radish
9 November 2009

"It's an extreme version of what every half-way decent parent goes through, worrying about their children's well-being, that they will grow up to be adults and take care of themselves, so you can leave the world knowing your kids are going to be safe. It's more extreme here, but it's the same worry. If I go, this kid is completely alone. It's every parent's nightmare."

Viggo Mortensen
Viggo Mortensen: A Man Apart
Dave Calhoun
AnOther Man
Issue 7 Autumn/Winter 2008

The comradeship between you two is obvious on the screen.

It is, isn't it? I think it shows, too, that you feel we have that complicity, that true relationship. Those are things that can't be faked. We became good friends very quickly and I came to love him as much as my own son. The truth is that he didn't just remind me a lot of my son when he was that age; he also made me remember my own childhood, the way I had of seeing things.

Viggo Mortensen: "As an actor, you must have some fear in order to learn"
By Desirée de Fez - translated by Ollie, Remolina, Rio and Sage
El Periodico
31 January 2010

"The first week or so we shot some pretty emotional scenes and that really made us bond. He's such a beautiful boy with such a beautiful presence, and his heart and soul is in this movie. Our combined heart. It sounds really sappy but it's true."

Viggo Mortensen
Viggo Mortensen talks about finding hope in 'The Road' and if he'll do 'The Hobbit'
by Keith Staskiewicz
Entertainment Weekly
25 November 2009

One aspect of his performance in 'The Road' that stands out is just how convincingly he cries. It feels genuine, as if he's going a step further than just holding up some shallots to his eyes and trying to picture the family dog being taken around the back of the barn and shot. 'A lot of it was down to Kodi Smit-McPhee... The relationship I have with the boy is so intense that I didn't need to visualise anything other than what was in the film itself: it was sad and real enough for me.'

Viggo Mortensen on 'The Road'
By David Jenkins
Time Out
7 January 2010

Smit-McPhee began to cry while shooting one scene because the weather was so biting and cold.

"He didn't say anything. He's such a professional," says Hillcoat. "He just kept saying the words. Viggo kept going. When I called 'cut' and looked at what we got on film it was amazing. Viggo just kept holding Kodi as he stood there crying. That moment captured an incredible bond between these two people."

John Hillcoat
Hard road to TIFF for Viggo Mortensen and kid co-star
By Constance Droganes
14 September 2009

While waiting [for a shot to be set up], Mr. Mortensen came back and fretfully studied the monitor. Kodi, meanwhile, dug for sand beetles, showing an especially plump one to Mr. Mortensen.

"Looks like good eatin'," Mr. Mortensen said, and it wasn't entirely clear whether he was joking or talking as a man who was supposed to be starving.

At World's End, Honing a Father-Son Dynamic
By Charles McGrath
New York Times
May 27, 2008

"He's very in the moment, definitely, right in the moment. When you see me running with him, and he's holding my hand and I trip over and all that, it's totally real. I was falling into thorns and stuff -- Aah! Aah! -- and he just drags me up and puts me on his shoulder. I'm like, Oh, my God."

Kodi Smit-McPhee
Viggo Mortensen: 'A Grown Man in an Era of Boys'
Jay A. Fernandez
Risky Biz
12 September 2009

Burnt and sinewy in each scene, he registers a liquid panic in every glance at the woods and a sort of angry regret in every peek at the boy. Mortensen is a different filthy man in each function of fatherhood. You recognize them all, without voice-over, without undue exposition. He still cares. And it hurts more than ever to care.

The Road Is the Most Important Movie of the Year
By Tom Chiarella
Esquire Magazine
12 May 2009

"Everything depends on reaching the coast. And we get there and it's just as bad or worse. It's just as cold. There's just as little food. Just as little shelter or safety, and you can just quit and not even reflect on that, or you can just realize that the thing we kept looking for, which, in fact, we can be grateful for that illusion, because it got us there. It drove us on. It was just that. An illusion. What we're looking for, we always had and still have it. It's each other. Our both being alive. And taking care of each other. That's the thing. That's the most important."

Viggo Mortensen
Viggo Mortensen Hits The Road
by Jenna Busch
The Huffington Post
12 November 2009

'My favourite line of the film happens to be in voiceover, where [my character] says that by the end, the boy has helped him accept his fate and accept the way things are and appreciate life. He says, "If I were God, I would make the world just so, and no different."'

Viggo Mortensen
Against all odds
Melora Koepke
12 November 2009

"Not many child actors could do what he did every day. Just on a technical level, he reacted the way a veteran actor would, seizing on an obstacle and befriending it. I told him, 'You're doing things that are revolutionary ? things that Brando and Montgomery Clift did.' He said, 'Who's Montgomery Clift?' "

Viggo talking about Kodi Smit-McPhee
Big Gun Takes on the Apocalypse
Charles McGrath
New York Times
10 September 2009

"These characters, the father and his son, in spite of seeming to be very cold, in fact, beneath the rags they wear, happen to have San Lorenzo t-shirts," says the actor, and laughs.

Viggo talking about The Road
In The Name Of The Father
By Natalia Trzenko - translated by Ollie and Zooey
La Nacion
22 June 2010

Reporter: You both had to go to some tough emotional places in this movie. How did you turn that off once the take was done?

Mortensen: He'd tell me I sucked.

Smit-McPhee: Then he went back to his room and had a cry.

Viggo and Kodi joking around at the Toronto Film Festival
Where 'Road' takes them
By Jen Chaney
The Washington Post
22 November 2009

As always, you will find all previous Quotables here in our Webpages.

© Viggo-Works/Iolanthe. Images © Image Macall Polay/2929/Dimension Films.

Prison Video Clip

Source: MTV Geek.
Found By: Chrissie
Categories: Media Movies Prison Reviews
Many thanks to Chrissie for bringing us this nice clip.

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Last edited: 18 March 2023 05:00:24