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"Stuck!" reasonably should have been a camp sendup, but a stodgy air descends over Steve Balderson's women-in-prison pic and doesn't subside.

With: Starina Johnson, Karen Black, Susan Traylor, Mink Stole, Jane Wiedlin, Pleasant Gehman, Stacy Cunningham, Betti O., September Carter.

“Stuck!” reasonably should have been a camp sendup, but a stodgy air descends over Steve Balderson’s women-in-prison pic and doesn’t subside. Pitch-perfect opening credits and a good black-and-white look indicate Balderson’s dedication to the genre, and pic earns points for energy as well as a solid lineup of camp vets and promising newcomers. But neither the comedy nor the mock-melodrama elements click, and sequences drown in talk, resulting in a piece that falls short of cult potential when it hits DVD slammers this fall.

Pretty Daisy (Starina Johnson) tries to stop her sickly mom (September Carter) from committing suicide, but in the ensuing struggle, mom dies and their nosy neighbor (Black, terrific) witnesses what appears to be murder. Her testimony leads to Daisy’s conviction, and the film switches uneasily between Daisy’s gradual transformation from delicate innocent into a hardass on death row (lousy uncredited production design) and the neighbor’s jittery bouts of guilt. Johnson manages Daisy’s development with a real grasp of the genre’s codes, but she’s burdened with too many long monologues. Among the inmates, Mink Stole and Pleasant Gehman inject needed fun.

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Production: A Dikenga Films presentation in association with Bright Blue Sky Prods. Produced by Steve Balderson. Co-producers, Dan Holmgren, Elliott Dunwody, Beth Dunwody, Tony Long, Jr., Paul N.J. Ottosson. Directed, edited by Steve Balderson. Screenplay, Frankie Krainz, Balderson, Jon Niccum.

Crew: Camera (color/B&W, DV), Balderson; music, Rob Kleiner. Reviewed at Outfest, Los Angeles, July 13, 2010. Running time: 94 MIN.

With: With: Starina Johnson, Karen Black, Susan Traylor, Mink Stole, Jane Wiedlin, Pleasant Gehman, Stacy Cunningham, Betti O., September Carter.

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