The best film of Don Siegel's career to date, this surprisingly intelligent B-picture describes the dramatic arc of an organized rebellion at Folsom prison. The inmates, who are sick of living conditions which include rundown cells, brutal guards, dreadful food, and the presence of the seriously deranged in the general prison population, decide to stage a riot to demand change. Neville Brand stars as Dunn, the vocal prisoner who leads the uprising. After the inmates take some guards hostage, Dunn makes the prisoner's demands for reform known to the warden Emile Meyer. While acknowledging the validity of their grievances, for which he's already harangued politicians without success, he warns them that there's nothing that can be done immediately. As Dunn contacts media outlets to further publicize his cause, word of the riot spreads to other cell blocks, and they too become involved. Fearing a bloody mass insurrection, Meyer reluctantly calls in the militia. Dunn, who thus far has been able to restrain his disturbed cohort Carnie (Leo Gordon) from inciting violence, is beginning to lose control. Considering its limited budget, the film's impressive sense of authenticity derived partly from the experience of veteran producer Walter Wanger, who had spent four months in a minimum security facility for shooting the agent and lover of his wife, Joan Bennet.
by Michael Costello synopsis