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November 12, 1972 - Image 11

Resource type:
Michigan Daily, 1972-11-12
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Page Eighteen


Sunday, November 12, 1972

Sundav November 12, 1972


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Arcade ewdqr Sk op
/26y.siatd ewlsr'a MteLtCaF 9a; Sgciely

'Built for.
950, now
holds 1800'
(Continued from Page 16)
when they were in office? They
were up there sitting, taking care
of the problems that the public
wanted taken care of. And the
public, not caring nor realizing
nor even thinking they would
ever enter a prison, put the pris-
oner lowest on the list of
changes - - -
The correctional institutions of
America have somewhere over
500,000 people each and every
day behind bars of some nature.
In the federal system there are
25,000 prisoners . . . the average
federal prison in the United
States is 75 years old. Lewisburg
prison has a population of 1800
people, the prison was built for
950 people in 1932, and not a
single stick, stone being added,
they doubled the population of
that prison, leaving the same
number of wash basins, the same
showers that they had for 950
. . . The educational factor in
the prison is a joke. In Lewis-
burg there is a rule that if you
are 30 years or younger and
didn't finish high school it is
mandatory that you go to the
school and complete high school.
But when you go up into the
h i g h e r education department,
what do you find? Six professors
-and an inmate's directing the
classes. What do they discuss in
the prison? How about the next
hold up? What happened to the
last one and where to go for the
next one. And the professors,
knowing full well that the pris-
oners control the situation, neat-
ly sit back and mind their own
Prisoners sitting day after day
in a cell block ten feet long and
I seven feet wide with nowhere to
go and nothing to do generate
unrest, generate a desire to do

something about it. That's why
you find an Attica and that's why
you find two riots in Lewisburg
while I was there and that's why
you find strikes all over the
Yes, you may sit here and say
to yourself, "It can't happen to
me," but as sure as you are sit-
ting here, if you are not a pris-
oner, you will be the victim of
an individual coming out of pris-
on that is not permitted to enter
into society-either based upon
the fact that there are laws re-
quiring registration or prohibi-
tions against individuals with a
crime record . . . And yet, on
the other hand, there are indi-
viduals out of prison who, after
having served 10, 12, 15 years,
are given $35 to walk out onto
the street and if they complain,
they are told very politely, "Why
could you use more? You're go-
ing to be back anyway" . . .
.. . Inmates are organizing all
over the United States in prisons,
when they can't do it publicly
they're doing it secretly. They're
passing the word from one prison
to the other and unless something
is done with the prisons, one day
you'll wake up and have a gen-
eral strike of every single jail
and prison in the United States.
. . Wherever the leaders are
sent they'll regenerate strikes
and riots until it is recognized
that the responsibility of the pros-
ecutor and the judge does not
stop when they send a man to
prison, but the elected officials
must see to it that he is properly
clothed, properly housed, hygen-
ics supplied to him, and is at
least rehabilitated to where he
can go out into society and sus-
tain himself without a pistol .. .
It is the responsibility of all
the powers that be to recognize
that men are men in or out of
jail and that you cannot take
away the dignity of a man with-
out having him become an ani-
mal. If you want to treat him
as an animal in prison, in five
to 15 years you'll turn him out
on the street as a animal . . .
And you'll lose your life if you
turn out of prison individuals
who are so hard they will take
your life because of the hatred
and the inability to secure a job
other than crime.

r n

Social Comment in the Ameri-
can Film by David Manning
White and Richard Averson
(Beacon Press, $14.95)
Remember the days when, if
you were persistent, had good
eyesight and even better luck,
you might find a few thin vol-
umes on Film; squeezed some-
where at the end of your local
bookshop's Drama shelves?.
The reversal of this situation
is like the rags-to-riches story
of a Chaplin: from suffered ob-
scurity to the financial big-time
and critical respectability, Cine-
ma as Art has arrived, and
with it a baggage of commentary
and literature fast threatening
to crush in its wake all remnants
of a non-visual, pre-celluloid cul-
When it comes down to it, there
are few who can logically re-
gret what at times seems over-
compensation for the arid years.
It is no more, in the last analy-
sis, than a tardy recognition that
movies are potentially as much
an art as a lyric poem or a five-
act tragedy. The snag, however,
is that, as with any cultural
manifestation at last granted
serious attention, a parasitism
thrives in the body politic of the
movement. For every Bazin, say,
there will be a dozen others
whooping it up on the bandwag-
on. Make no mistake. The Cellu-
loid Weapon is on that wagon,
greasing the wheels with a hand-
some package-job at $14.95 a
throw and smoothing its path
with a blurb dedicated to "the
exploration of the human con-
In line with its subtitle, this
book purports to trace the
"message film" in America from
the early silents through "A
Clockwork Orange." It is only
when you penetrate beyond these
promised (and promising) labels
that you realize authors White
and Averson have provided the
unwary with a bill of fare com-
parable in substance - but, alas,
not in price-to a souped-up T.V.
The technique r u n s - ap-
proximately thus. Begin with a
broad-based platitude: "Politics,
Nigel Gearing is a gradnate
student in English.

- books-
film and social commtary

premises of 1928 and "The
Threepenny Opera." Similarly,
the genre's early appeal to an
immigrant view of urbanized life
and more recently (viz. "Bonnie
and Clyde") to a young genera-
tion's sense of cultural disposses-
sion adumbrates what a mere
attention to surfaces would sug-
gest to be simple variations on
a theme. Critic Robert Warshow,
hailing the gangster as modern
tragic hero, is right to suggest
thereby a continuing relational
stress between our celluloid day-
dreams and our hours outside the
movie-theatre: "In ways that we
do not easily or willingly define,
the gangster speaks for us, ex-
pressing that part of the Ameri-
can psyche which rejects the
qualities and demands of mod-
ern life, which rejects 'Ameri-
canism' itself."
The "message" film is thus
only one extreme and self-adver-
tising instance of this wider
referentiality - the tip, so to
speak, of the socio-cultural ice-
berg. As such, and springing so
often from a determined, indi-
vidualist director, it is probab-
ly less representative of the
(continued on page 4)

Marlon Brando in "The Wild Bunch"

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especially the unethical variety,
always makes headlines - and
more so during an election
year." Amplify the truism with
a journalistic splash of local
color: "In 1932, the Depression's
millions were hopefully looking
for an opportunity to effect some
economic and political improve-
ment, perhaps by putting a new
face in the White House." Effect
a facile transition to the world
of film: "Not surprisingly, Holly-
wood sensed the hum of politics
as the nation prepared to go to
the polls." Then home in on what
fills seventy-five per cent of this
book's tedious pages - a series
of plot summaries, strung togeth-
er in chronological order and -
if you're lucky - culminating in
one nod towards a diluted "cri-
tical discrimination (sample, of
"The Ox-Bow Incident": "A
classic statement against mob
violence, no film ever surpassed
its blunt denunciation of what
happens to men when they aban-
don reason") and another to-
wards the generalized Social
Relevance with which we came
in (sample, of Ray Milland in
"The Lost Weekend": "The de-
lirium tremens which culmi-
nates his long binge makes him
hallucinate the gruesome image
of a bat devouring a mouse on

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A mountain of steamed corned
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his bedroom wall: his scream at
the flowing blood encapsulated
the anguish of millions of alco-
holics like him").
Representative of the synopses
is that of "Blackboard Jungle":
"The vocational - school setting
of the shocking Evan Hunter
novel was a microcosm of the
conculsions that were disrupting
the classrooms in many cities.
The unruly kids in "Blackboard
Jungle" added their own "r" to
the traditional reading, 'riting
and 'rithmetic - rampage.
(Even a Mr. Chips or a Miss
Bishop, great teachers as they
were, might have thrown up
their hands in despair.) Mr. Da-
dier - soon dubbed 'Daddy-O' by
his charges - never had a course
in teacher's college that told him
how to fend off a student attack-
ing him with an open knife. In
contrast to the real-life experi-
ences of many teachers who had
been molested and brutalized in
the rundown city schools in in-
terstitial neighborhoods, Dadier
finally manages to establish
some rapport with his students."
And-before you can blink-
it's on to another plot summary,
another summary judgement.
The shame of all this is, of
course, that the book's subject
could in other hands have pro-
vided a rich crop of cultural and
social insights. Films, certainly
no less - and arguably more -
than literature serve in large
measure as an underground
scripture of our popular convic-
tions, superstitions and fantasies:
concealed beneath their surface
entertainment is a seismograph
which, apprehended and read
correctly, can tell us more about
wide-scale moods and proclivities
than any number of sociological
theses. More specifically , the
American movie-industry has al-
ways seemed in spirit (if not in
achievement) curiously at one
with that ebullient mixture of
expansive optimism, s h re w d
business-sense and tawdry ideals
which kicked the country into
the productivity - drive of the
1920s; its long term failures are
inextricable from the contradic-
tions and compromises of an ex-
hausted capitalist ethic. The
gangster-genre in American mov-
ies is just one illustration of this
synoptic and referential semi-
ology. Its oscillation between the
hood now as part of an organiza-
tion, now as isolado, now again
(viz. "The Godfather") as cor-
poration-man, measures a pub-
lic's changing conception of the
tensions between individual and
society. In Coppola's film - as
in the movie "Performance"
the most recent verdicts equate
the "respectable" power-syn-
dromes of big business and gov-
ernment with underworld activ-
ity, hence returning us to the

401. fv~jctc

mEl - 1

Chaplin as : The Great Dictator"


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