Mubi is calling this "The best women's prison movie ever made" and I will call it one of the best Mid-Century Hollywood films. Every actor in this is great, so is the script and photography, and the whole film seems to have evaded the Hays Code. The ending is sensational, harsh, cynical. Maybe since the B-studios were making so much money off exploitation films, they had to let Warner get away with making one too?
Anachronistic and at times reminiscent of an angular reform school, nonetheless a cutting portrait of hierarchical control, the inescapable dynamics and shapings of an institution as punishment, and, above all, despair, despair, despair: the prayer of menace unfolds, as Marie Allen concedes to her descent, into the genesis of the femme fatale archetype--anxiety is a climate. Kindly omit flowers, indeed.
Possibly the most polished and most effective women behind bars melodramas of the era. Sharply-directed by John Cromwell, the beautiful Eleanor Parker leads a strong supporting cast of great character actresses. An underrated classic, and one of the great prison films, male or female cast aside.
Life in the Big House for Women is hell. No one combs their hair or uses correct grammar. Agnes Moorehead’s dialogue is nothing but Author’s Message which she delivers as if standing on a soapbox. The rest of the script is a lexicon of looney lingo. Most of the drama of the story is based on the concept that a woman's role in society is limited to wife, mother and comptometer operator.