Review: Riot DVD

STUDIO: Olive Films | DIRECTOR: Buzz Kulik | CAST: Gene Hackman, Jim Brown, Mike Kellin, Gerald S. O’Loughlin, Ben Carruthers
RELEASE DATE: 2/8/11 | PRICE: DVD $24.95
SPECS: R | 96 min. | Drama | 1.85:1 widescreen | stereo

RATINGS (out of 5): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

The 1969 film Riot is another in the line of movies from the Paramount Pictures archives to make its no-frills DVD debut on the Olive Films label.

Based on Frank Elli’s novel, Riot is a relatively straight-ahead prison flick about a group of violent state penitentiary inmates, headed by Gene Hackman (Lucky Lady), who stage a riot and take over the prison to demand better treatment, while secretly executing a plan to tunnel their way to freedom. One inmate (former NFL great Jim Brown) is up for parole and wants no part of the riot, but he unfortunately gets pulled into the melee while trying to protect a prison guard from the extreme torture the rioters have in mind.

Directed by Buzz Kulik (who would score a few years later with Burt Reynolds cop flick Shamus and the TV movie Brian’s Song), Riot doesn’t deliver so much on the violence and action that’s usually associated with prison movies as it does on the genuine, gritty atmosphere. That’s no surprise, because it was filmed on location inside the Arizona State Prison, and many of the movie’s extras were actual inmates. Additionally, the uncompromising warden is portrayed by Frank A. Eyman, the facility’s real-life warden.

But the episodic narrative in the film, which unfolds over the course of one long day and night, is surprisingly calm, and most of the fighting takes place between the maniacal inmates themselves.

Worth noting is Riot‘s music, which includes a moody electronic score by Polish composer Krzystof Komeda (best known for his work on such Roman Polanksi films as Rosemary’s Baby and The Fearless Vampire Killers) and the soulful song “100 Years,” sung by the Righteous Brothers’ Bill Medley.

Not a “lost classic” by any means, this is a tough-enough prison film that will surely appeal to fans of the genre and Hackman completists.


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About Laurence

Founder and editor Laurence Lerman saw Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest when he was 13 years old and that’s all it took. He has been writing about film and video for more than a quarter of a century for magazines, anthologies, websites and most recently, Video Business magazine, where he served as the Reviews Editor for 15 years.