Directed by R.G. Springsteen
Screenplay by Daniel James (as Daniel Hyatt) and Eugène Lourié
Director Of Photography: William Margulies
Cast: Gene Evans (Lou Gannon), Robert Blake (Rudy Hernandez), Timothy Carey (Ed ‘Bugsy’ Kyle), John Qualen (Doc), Sam Edwards (Al), Walter Barnes (Red), Frank Richards (Jake), Emile Meyer (Warden), Arline Hunter (Girl), John Mitchum, Frank Ferguson
I don’t care what you think about him as a person, Robert Blake is a great actor. I’d list his In Cold Blood (1967) performance as one of the finest in cinema. He’s almost as good in Electra Glide In Blue (1973). And he’s terrific in Revolt In The Big House (1958), a tough little Allied Artists prison picture. Making any kind of impression at all would be hard when your co-stars are none other than Gene Evans and Timothy Carey, but Blake holds his own.
Lou Gannon (Evans) is a big-time racketeer, and when he winds up in prison, he quickly makes his way to the top. Enlisting his young cellmate Rudy Hernandez (Blake) and violent nut-job former associate Ed ‘Bugsy’ Kyle (Carey), Gannon puts into motion an elaborate escape plan that includes staging a riot. Along for the ride are Frank Ferguson, uncredited as a lawyer, and John Qualen as Doc, a wise old inmate serving a lengthy sentence.
Sure, it occasionally falls into the typical prison movie formula, but so what? It’s cool, it’s mean, it’s well-acted and it’s put together by some real pros.
After a great run at Republic, and before a busy decade in TV, R.G. Springsteen directed a few films for Allied Artists: a couple Westerns, a war picture and Revolt In The Big House. His work is typically brisk, always strong, never flashy. You could say the same of the cinematographer, William Margulies, who made great use of some location work at Folsom State Prison.
The screenplay is credited to Daniel Hyatt and Eugène Lourié. Hyatt is actually blacklisted writer Daniel James. In 1998 his credit was reinstated by the Writers Guild. He also wrote The Giant Behemoth (1959) and Gorgo (1961). Us genre fans owe him a sizable debt.
Warner Archive has done big things with another little movie. It looks great, from the contrast to the 1.85 framing. I can’t say it enough: every movie, no matter how small, should be treated this well when it comes to DVD and Blu-ray.
It’s so easy to recommend Revolt In The Big House. Just the fact that Timothy Carey ends up with a machine gun makes it essential. And it’s got a lot more going for it than that.
Thanks to Marissa at The Timothy Carey Experience for the stills.