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Rated R
Copyright 1979 Jerry Gross Productions
Reviewed by Andrew Borntreger on 10 January 2009

The Characters:  

  • Too Sweet - The funny thing here is that, despite his nickname, he is the only main character who is not involved in a male anal rape.
  • Eugene - His death grip was, in death, unbreakable.
  • Seldom Seen - He has spent fifty years of his life in prison, but has managed to retain his humanity and presents himself as a distinguished fellow. He also speaks in rhyme and has a secret stash of Mr. Goodbars. You can't get much cooler than that.
  • Linda - She has two tricks. The first is driving people around in her van. The second is getting driven by people in her van.
  • Lt. Arnsworth - Chuck Mitchell! Chuck was always great in his roles, but one look at the man and I knew he would never live to see his 70th birthday; not even if God wanted him to.
  • Jesse - In the field of male anal rape he is a genius. He is the brains of the operation, the man pulling the strings, the master of puppets, the officer in charge, etc., etc., etc.
  • Half Dead - He was not quite enough man for Too Sweet.
  • Sweet Pea - What in the name of cross-dressing Wayans is that thing?
  • Peaches - Now those are some peaches; some big, luscious peaches. I want to give her tree a long and hard shaking.

Buy It!

The Plot: 

This is a film about a young man who never backs down in the face of injustice. He is wrongly sent to prison, stands up to the bullies who run the cellblock, and finally triumphs by winning a boxing tournament. However, the first thirty minutes of the film are not about boxing. What it is about is the gang of ruffians who rule the cellblock through fear and sexual violation. The first thirty minutes of "Penitentiary" is all about male anal rape. Once you get through that it becomes a boxing movie.

In other words: to get to the meat of the film, you have to get past the meat of the film.

The first time we see Too Sweet, he is a hitchhiking. He is picked up by Linda after spending the night asleep on the side of a desert highway. Linda makes her living by driving a big van that serves as a taxi. Ladies, what is the first thing that pops into your head after picking up a hitchhiking vagrant who probably has not showered in a few days, and who has a bad case of afro highway bed head? If you replied, "A quickie in the back of the van," then you need to get with the times. These days, most men take showers. You do not have to get funky with a man who is funky just because all men are funky and there is nobody else to get funky with.

Fornication is postponed when Linda gets a call to pick up some customers at a diner. When she and her hitchhiking prince arrive they discover the customers are just lowlife racists. Too Sweet defends Linda's honor (she only has a little left; let's hope it's worth saving), but gets knocked out. When he wakes up, he is a part of the California prison system.

Prison is not a kind place, in case you did not know. When new inmates are introduced to the cellblock, the excitement and anticipation rivals opening day at the ballpark. Jesse and his friends pick out their marks, because, as everybody who has ever watched a men's prison movie knows, an awful lot of inmate sausage gets put in places it is not wanted. Yep, male anal rape. Poor Eugene ends up in a cell with Jesse. Jesse is a mean mofo who is all about, "You is my b*tch." Eugene is not allowed to urinate while standing; his boo hates it when he does that. How would you like it if some big convict beat you up every time you forgot to sit down to pee? Oh, and that is after he spent all night making you wish you had one less opening and a lot less nerve endings than you were born with.

It bears mentioning that at least one prison film does not contain any male anal rape, and that is "Jailhouse Rock." Everyone knows that "male anal rape" and "Elvis Presley" do not belong in the same sentence, and I just inadvertently did so while pointing this out. Oops. Google should have a field day with that.

What the heck did this film do to me?

Too Sweet is put into Half Dead's cell. After lights out, our hero does his best to ignore his roommates "advances," but eventually he is forced to defend himself from the brute. The two men battle it out. The confrontation is a brutal affair, and the cell walls are soon smeared with sweat and blood. For a while, the future of Too Sweet's rectum hangs in the balance, but he eventually gains the upper hand. The cries that Jesse and the others hear echoing down the cellblock are those of the would-be male anal rapist as he begs for mercy.

After all of that is taken care of, we can finally get to the boxing. The film does not go the usual route by extensively covering the boxers training. Instead, Too Sweet spends a lot of time mentoring Eugene (who is also learning how to box, and no longer anybody's b*tch), and even more time talking to Seldom. The old man is the most impressive aspect of the film. Seldom has one dialog that stands out. He describes his entire philosophy about life, prison, and being "institutionalized." It is near perfect. It is an epiphany. If you have ever watched "The Shawshank Redemption," then you have already seen this scene, but consider when the films were made. It makes you wonder.

"The Shawshank Redemption" also contains male anal rape, but no boxing. Nor does anyone in "Shawshank" obsess over Mr. Goodbars (Too Sweet loves Mr. Goodbars), and nobody in the 1994 film wears a ripped denim uniform that is tied across the chest to make them look like a woman.

I am getting off track here...

Okay, so this is a boxing movie, and the latter half of it is filled with boxing. The inmates only fight a handful of matches, but there are plenty of scenes from the bouts. The focus is on Too Sweet (but we do get to see Eugene standing tall like a man). Man, Too Sweet's stance is horrible. Great energy with his footwork, but his stance is just asking to get knocked out. The protagonist's basic stance places his gloves on top of his thighs! That would be great, if his opponent was a boghog. Too Sweet is not boxing boghogs; he is fighting some of the meanest inmates in the prison. Incredibly, his unorthodox stance works (probably because he is boxing amateurs). The warden is so impressed with the boxing tournaments that he rewards Too Sweet with a connubial visit.

Connubial, conjugal, convivial...whatever.

The female prize is Linda! We discover that the reason Too Sweet went to prison was that, after he was knocked out, one of the racists tried to rape her. She stabbed him to death with a chef's knife, and Too Sweet was left to take the blame. Despite being incarcerated and being forced to defend his backdoor virginity, Too Sweet waits until after they have sex to berate Linda and then storm out. That will teach her.

Not that I blame Too Sweet for waiting until after he got a little tail to turn around and stomp on that same piece of tail. A man gets lonely in prison. It is a shame that he does not know about all the boinking that is going on in the restrooms during the fights. Whenever there is a boxing tournament the warden allows a few female prisoners to visit from the women's prison. A male trustee quickly discovers that if he hides in the bathroom beforehand, eventually the guard allows a female convict in. Then the lurking trustee just hops down and introduces himself, real friendly like.

The male anal rapist gang has not forgiven Too Sweet for breaking their hold on the cellblock (male anal rapes are down more than 80% since he arrived). Half Dead and one of the others plan to shank the stalwart hero. Their attack is spoiled by Eugene, but the young man pays the ultimate price. The only thing that Too Sweet can do is challenge Jesse to a final, bloody, soul-redeeming match in the ring. If he wins, he might qualify for an early parole. If he loses...well, who wants to lose to somebody named "Jesse?" I wouldn't even cut fresh flowers for somebody named Jesse.

By the way, one of those shanks looked more like a short sword. Where has he been hiding that thing?

Do not answer that question. I am covering my ears. La-la-la-la-la!

Before I let you go, I have a story to tell you. During my tour in Iraq, we all slept in an old stone building. There was this guy who, for reasons unknown, had brought his "Oz" DVDs along. He would watch those DVDs on his laptop before going to sleep, and he always went to sleep around two in the morning. Quite unfortunately, this guy did not have headphones. I have never watched "Oz," but every episode must contain male anal rape. If every episode does not, then the only episodes he watched were the ones that did. Needless to say, I would wake up to grunting and screaming as some prisoner on "Oz" was subjected to that. Then one of the other Marines, Brian Moran (whose cot was close to "violated inmate theater"), would start yelling at the idiot to, "Turn that sh*t off!" This happened every night like clockwork. The one night that the whacko did not watch "Oz," Moran had a nightmare that he did. So, I still got woken up, but this time it was Moran yelling, "Turn that Sh*t off!" and everybody else telling him, "He's not watching it! Wake up! You're having a bad dream!"

Things I Learned From This Movie: 

  • Smearing your face with shaving cream, grunting, and demanding to see somebody's buttocks is known as "breaking the ice."
  • Hugging somebody to death takes a long time, no matter how angry you are at them.
  • The size of a man's afro is inversely proportionate to his jump rope skills.
  • Thirty-five years of abstinence will turn you into an avid reader or make you insane, or both.
  • The male boxing promoter is easily distinguished from the female of the species by his large, pointed collars.
  • The Navy donates all of its old uniforms to the California Department of Corrections.
  • Hookers get paid by the pint (you know what I mean).
  • The key to defying the Law of Gravity is internal bleeding.

Stuff To Watch For: 

  • 3 mins - Notice that the van is traveling much slower when the camera is focused on Too Sweet.
  • 13 mins - This is unsettling, because Half Dead is obviously "making himself feel sexy" to "get in the mood."
  • 21 mins - A Barry White song would make this scene completely wrong.
  • 33 mins - "So, are you a Steelers fan or somebody's b*tch?"
  • 47 mins - That is...really disturbing.
  • 57 mins - What are you doing? Isn't it a bit late for "pre-flight?"
  • 61 mins - You are supposed to kiss her on the forehead after she does that.
  • 77 mins - The film's working title was "Behind the Green Bars."
  • 93 mins - Just be glad that you missed the '60s.


  • Jesse: "You still my b*tch."

 Audio clips in wav formatSOUNDSStarving actors speak out 

Green Music Note penitentiary1.wav Half Dead: (being choked) "The bronc...the bronc done busted the buster!"
Jesse: "Come on, man. Don't tell me that sh*t. Just run it to me right, Dead."
Too Sweet: "He's running it to you right. This is Too Sweet talking, and I'm riding your bronc buster right now. So now why don't you and your boys just back off!"
Green Music Note penitentiary2.wav Eugene: "But I happen to be Jesse's property; as you gathered last night."
Too Sweet: "Property? Is that what you think of yourself: somebody's property?"
Eugene: "Aw, come on, man. You know what's happening. Everybody knows what's happening. I've been, as they say, 'tampered with.'"
Green Music Note penitentiary3.wav Lt. Arnsworth: "I'm trying, but it's not positive yet, but I'm trying to work out one week of connubial visits for the winner of each event."
Prisoners: "?"
Lt. Arnsworth: "Connubial visits, you jack*sses, means that the winner of each event will get to spend one night, in a trailer, in the yard, with a woman!"
Green Music Note penitentiary4.wav Too Sweet: "I'm going to kick plenty butt. Including yours, old man, if you don't you give me a Goodbar! I want some Goodbar! I want a Goodbar!"
Seldom: "Sit down, Too Sweet! You don't know your own strength! I'm not about to get too old to get a little bold, and knock one of you chumps out cold."

 Click for a larger imageIMAGESScenes from the movie 


 Watch a sceneVIDEOMPEG video files 

Video Clippenitentiary1.mpg - 6.2m
Magilla Gorilla (that's his name) is a little sensitive about his ears, and does not appreciate it that Too Sweet keeps boxing them.

Of course, all of this could have been avoided if Magilla Gorilla did not leave himself wide open every time he throws a punch.

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