Women's Prison (1955 film)

Women's Prison is a 1955 American film noir crime film directed by Lewis Seiler and starring Ida Lupino, Jan Sterling, Cleo Moore, Audrey Totter, Phyllis Thaxter and Howard Duff.[1]

Women's Prison
Theatrical release poster
Directed byLewis Seiler
Produced byBryan Foy
Screenplay byCrane Wilbur
Jack DeWitt
Story byJack DeWitt
StarringIda Lupino
Jan Sterling
Cleo Moore
Audrey Totter
Phyllis Thaxter
Howard Duff
CinematographyLester White
Edited byHenry Batista
Columbia Pictures
Distributed byColumbia Pictures
Release date
  • February 1955 (1955-02) (United States)
Running time
80 minutes
CountryUnited States

The film is noted today for the appearance of Moore, and for Lupino's performance as the aggressively cruel warden. In the 1980s the film became rather popular, Sony Pictures subsequently released it in the boxed set Bad Girls of Film Noir: Volume II along with One Girl's Confession and Over-Exposed.


A ruthless superintendent of a prison, Amelia van Zandt, makes life hell for the female inmates. Her rules are rigid and she makes no exceptions.

The newcomer Helene Jensen is not a hardened criminal by any means, but a woman convicted of vehicular homicide after she accidentally killed a child. Out of place here, Helene is so distraught that Van Zandt has her placed in solitary confinement, making it even worse. Helene nearly dies.

The prison has two wings, one for women, one for men. One of the inmates, Joan Burton, has been illicitly having conjugal relations late at night with her husband, Glen, a convict in the other wing. Now she is expecting a baby, and brutal men's warden Brock issues a stern warning to Van Zandt that she'd better find out how the two prisoners have been arranging these meetings.

Joan has the sympathy of the decent Dr. Crane who's in charge of the infirmary and disapproves of the cruel treatment of prisoners he sees. But the heartless Van Zandt goes into a literally homicidal rage while interrogating Joan, beating the pregnant prisoner to death.

A protest erupts in the women's cell block, beginning with a hunger strike organized by Joan's cell mate, Brenda Martin, then turning into a full-scale riot. Naive or timid inmates are swept up along with the vicious, veteran ones, and there is much bloodshed before the uprising is quelled. Dr. Crane intends to go to the prison board and accuse Van Zandt of murder.



The staff at Variety praised some of the actors in the film, "Sterling scores nicely as a tough moll, Cleo Moore is a typical femme inmate and Vivian Marshall, as an ex-stripteaser gone wrong, shines in some amusing impersonations."[2]

See also


  1. Women's Prison at the American Film Institute Catalog.
  2. Variety. Staff film review, 1955. Accessed: August 15, 2013.
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