Riot in Cell Block 11 is a hard-hitting, suspenseful prison thriller.
The pros and cons of prison riots are stated articulately in the Richard Collins screen story, and producer Walter Wanger uses a realistic, almost documentary, style to make his point for needed reforms in the operation of penal institutions.
The picture doesn’t use formula prison plot. There’s no inmate reformed by love or fair treatment, nor unbelievable boy-meets-girl, gets-same angle. Nor are there any heroes and heavies of standard pattern. Instead, it deals with a riot, how it started and why, what was done to halt it, the capitulations on both sides.
The points for reform made in the Wanger production cover overcrowding housing, poor food, the mingling of mentally well and mentally sick prisoners, the character-corroding idleness of men caged in cell blocks.
A standout performance is given by Emile Meyer, the warden who understands the prisoners’ problems.