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PostPosted: Wed Jan 15, 2014 5:40 pm 
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Riot in Cell Block 11

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Early in his career, Don Siegel made his mark with this sensational and high-octane but economically constructed drama set in a maximum-security penitentiary. Riot in Cell Block 11, the brainchild of producer extraordinaire Walter Wanger, is a ripped-from-the-headlines social-problem picture about prisoners’ rights that was inspired by a recent spate of uprisings in American prisons. In Siegel’s hands, the film is at once brash and humane, showcasing the hard-boiled visual flair and bold storytelling for which the director would become known and shot on location at Folsom State Prison, with real inmates and guards as extras.

SPECIAL FEATURES

• New high-definition digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
• New audio commentary by film scholar Matthew H. Bernstein
• Excerpts from the director’s 1993 autobiography, A Siegel Film, read by his son Kristoffer Tabori
• Excerpts from Stuart Kaminsky’s 1974 book Don Siegel: Director, read by Tabori
• Excerpts from the 1953 NBC radio documentary series The Challenge of Our Prisons
PLUS: An essay by critic Chris Fujiwara, a 1954 article by coproducer Walter Wanger (dual-format only), and a 1974 tribute to Siegel by filmmaker Sam Peckinpah (dual-format only)


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 15, 2014 5:41 pm 
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Quote:
• More!


I'm listening...


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 15, 2014 5:56 pm 
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I'm rapt.


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 15, 2014 5:58 pm 
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The Characters of Riot in Cell Block 11 wrote:
I'm facing a rap.


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 15, 2014 6:12 pm 
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I crapt.


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 15, 2014 6:13 pm 
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I just wish Siegel had continued on selecting his film titles with random yet highly specific numbers after the, um, one-two punch of this and Private Hell 36. For those who've seen it, as a prison picture, how does this one stack up against another Criterion entry like Brute Force?


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 15, 2014 6:23 pm 
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Great addition, and it's leading me to wish we could have a Walter Wanger fest at Criterion including Reckless Moment et al!

Anyway it will be a relief to bin the tired old VHS (With late 70s fashion and food commercials!) to DVDR from last century.

Apart from some notional similarities with the Dassin - men in groups, power plays, etc - it doesn't touch on the Baroque high neurosis level of Brute Force, so no clearly implied SM Homosexuality, no barely submerged critiques of fascism. The Siegel focusses purely on the action itself, not so much the social context.

He's his own director but if one had to compare him to anyone it's maybe Hawks, except that Siegel disregards the
"group" or the concept of cooperative professionalism per se. Charley Varrick is maybe the exception to that but again it's all about action and solitary success.

Didn't Sarris regard him as a master of highly graceful montage? Cutting from shots in action to shots in action? His films feature heavily in Lawrence Alloway's great book Violent America and the series he curated for MoMA. His early career was largely montage sequences for 40s Warners pictures until he got his directorial breaks late 40s.


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 15, 2014 8:51 pm 
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Quote:
Excerpts from the director’s 1993 autobiography, A Siegel Film, read by his son Kristoffer Tabori

Never knew Tabori was Siegel's son, by Viveca Lindfors. A good actor -- just watched him in something the other day. Seems after his mother remarried, he took the last name of his stepfather, theater director George Tabori, and changed the spelling of his first name.

Can't remember if I've ever seen this film before, though. It sounds like the kind of thing that used to keep me up watching TV in the middle of the night. I like much of Siegel's work, so looking forward to checking it out -- again, maybe.


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 15, 2014 11:50 pm 
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david hare wrote:
He's his own director but if one had to compare him to anyone it's maybe Hawks, except that Siegel disregards the
"group" or the concept of cooperative professionalism per se. Charley Varrick is maybe the exception to that but again it's all about action and solitary success.


Very true. Throughout his work, there's a recurrence of what could almost be described as individualist paranoia. He seemed to gravitate toward films in which a lone protagonist seeks to preserve some form of a just humanity within a social order that's determined to eliminate them (*Invasion of the Body Snatchers*, *Flaming Star*, *Dirty Harry*, *The Shootist* - to a certain extent *Hell is for Heroes*).

I'm very excited about this release -- this one's been on my 'must see' list for a long while.


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 16, 2014 3:17 am 
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New Audio Commentary! That prospect always thrills me. And a critic's commentary for Siegel, no less.


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 17, 2014 1:42 am 
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RIOT was slated for 3-D production until two weeks before cameras rolled. They were given a two week restriction on filming at Folsom Prison and Walter Wanger decided it would not be enough time for the stereoscopic set-ups.

This was Siegel's first widescreen film.


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 17, 2014 5:52 am 
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Bob are you familiar enough with the pic to comment on whether you think there are remnants of the 3D possibilities in the picture as filmed?


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 17, 2014 11:51 am 
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Possibly some of the POV shots during the riot with prisoners tossing items from the upper levels of the prison is a remnant of the 3-D storyboards but I can't say for sure.

When initially announced for production on June 15, 1953, it was to be 3-D with stereophonic sound and Crane Wilbur was slotted to direct. He was riding high on the current boxoffice success of HOUSE OF WAX.

On July 22, Variety reported: "Crane Wilbur bowed out as director of "Riot In Cell Block 11" at Allied Artists because of differences of opinion in handling the script."

Siegel was signed on July 27 and plans for 3-D were dropped on August 5. "Walter Wanger's Allied Artists production, "Riot in Cell Block 11," will be filmed in 2-D instead of 3-D because of regulations at Folsom Prison, where much of the shooting will be done. Prison officials put a two-week limit on the use of the location."

The stereophonic sound plans were also dropped because of problems Allied Artists' was having in July with dubbing stereo onto THE MAZE. I suspect the technical problems of doing multi-track 35mm recording at Folsom Prison on a two week shoot was out of the question.

Allied had begun filming for widescreen on May 7, 1953 with THE ROYAL AFRICAN RIFLES. They didn't make their official announcement until July 3 and RIOT went before the cameras on August 17.


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 17, 2014 11:54 am 
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 20, 2014 10:06 pm 
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Belated. Many thanks!


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 21, 2014 9:13 am 
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Criterion have altered their previously incorrect listing of Il sorpasso from 1.37:1 to 1.85:1. Unfortunately, Riot remains at 1.33:1.


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 21, 2014 3:24 pm 
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EddieLarkin wrote:
Criterion have altered their previously incorrect listing of Il sorpasso from 1.37:1 to 1.85:1. Unfortunately, Riot remains at 1.33:1.


They did tell Bob they would be looking at it. The Il sorpasso listing was more of a straight up typo.


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 21, 2014 9:41 pm 
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Walter Mirisch is still alive--indeed he's written a memoir--so perhaps Criterion could get him on the record about this film and about his tenure at Allied Artists.


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 05, 2014 12:18 pm 

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Final list of supplements:

New high-definition digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
New audio commentary by film scholar Matthew H. Bernstein
Excerpts from the director’s 1993 autobiography, A Siegel Film, read by his son Kristoffer Tabori
Excerpts from Stuart Kaminsky’s 1974 book Don Siegel: Director, read by Tabori
Excerpts from the 1953 NBC radio documentary series The Challenge of Our Prisons
PLUS: An essay by critic Chris Fujiwara, a 1954 article by coproducer Walter Wanger (dual-format only), and a 1974 tribute to Siegel by filmmaker Sam Peckinpah (dual-format only)

Also, this release will be getting a DVD-only edition, as well as A BRIEF HISTORY OF TIME, MASTER OF THE HOUSE, and IL SORPASSO.


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PostPosted: Sat Feb 08, 2014 6:27 pm 
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With the Criterion website specs for 'Riot' staying stubbornly in Academy, something tells me that they aren't particularly listening to Bob Furmanek's AR research findings and we are doomed to have the film not as Siegel primarily shot it, or how it premiered, but as it played in some backwoods kinema in the boondocks...

Second prize would have been the ability to zoom the film to an approximation of 1.66:1, but Criterion lock the ARs of their BDs making this impossible. Normally I have no issue with this 'nanny knows best' approach. After all, why would anyone want to zoom an Academy film?

Only this isn't an Academy film.


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PostPosted: Sat Feb 08, 2014 6:58 pm 
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John Hodson wrote:
Second prize would have been the ability to zoom the film to an approximation of 1.66:1, but Criterion lock the ARs of their BDs making this impossible.

To achieve this I have to faff around disabling all DRM/Region locking on the disc with AnyDVDHD, then crop it with MPC-HC (though at least this allows me to do it precisely, rather than just a flat 16:9 crop), and then connect my PC to my PDP to play it (luckily, they're not that far apart!).

Even viewing this film on youtube the intended AR is obvious. With Criterion's new telecine, this will no doubt be even more blatant.


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PostPosted: Sat Feb 08, 2014 7:22 pm 
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John Hodson wrote:
With the Criterion website specs for 'Riot' staying stubbornly in Academy, something tells me that they aren't particularly listening to Bob Furmanek's AR research findings

They ain't the only ones! \:D/


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PostPosted: Sun Feb 09, 2014 5:31 am 
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Bob Furmanek is the reason I went for a dual aspect ratio on Arrow's The Killers.

I had a strong suspicion that the film had been protected for widescreen, fuelled by the evidence of my own eyes, an experimental cropping of the Criterion disc, and the fact that the film played in cinemas at a time when many no longer showed Academy films, but I needed cast-iron proof before proceeding...

...which Bob was happy to provide, in the form of cuttings demonstrating (a) that the film was always intended for European theatrical release from the outset, and (b) that the recommended AR for theatrical presentations was 1.85:1.

So we went ahead, and I have to say that I think the film looks terrific in 1.85:1. I'd never have sanctioned a disc that only featured that ratio, but it's not a long film and we had the space.


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PostPosted: Sun Feb 09, 2014 3:29 pm 
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I'd say this is as much a candidate for a Dual Ratio presentation as On The Waterfront was.

It's clearly shot for some kind of widescreen but at the same time it was in that early period when half the audience out in the rural areas would have seen it in Academy.

Barring the option for choice, I'd rather have the 1.66 over the 1.37 because that is what was being framed for and presented in premiere engagements, but even the expert who personally prefers open matte says that both are completely acceptable...


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 18, 2014 10:38 pm 
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MichaelB wrote:
I had a strong suspicion that the film had been protected for widescreen, fuelled by the evidence of my own eyes, an experimental cropping of the Criterion disc, and the fact that the film played in cinemas at a time when many no longer showed Academy films, but I needed cast-iron proof before proceeding...

...which Bob was happy to provide, in the form of cuttings demonstrating (a) that the film was always intended for European theatrical release from the outset, and (b) that the recommended AR for theatrical presentations was 1.85:1.

So we went ahead, and I have to say that I think the film looks terrific in 1.85:1. I'd never have sanctioned a disc that only featured that ratio, but it's not a long film and we had the space.


This is no surprise for those of us who have followed his rantings, but I suppose this means you now join Furmanek on Jeffrey Wells' hit list of 1.85:1 fascists. Be careful that you don't end up at aspect-ratio Nuremberg, where the convicted are guillotined because it creates more headroom.


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