Penitentiary

( 1 )

Overview

Jamaa Fanaka's gritty and idiosyncratic blend of blaxploitation, sports drama, and life-behind-bars thriller gets a third round on DVD in this release from Xenon Pictures. Penitentiary has been given a letterboxed transfer to disc in the widescreen aspect ratio of 1.85:1; while the image hasn't been enhanced for 16 x 9 monitors, the new transfer is clean, well-detailed, and struck from better-looking source materials than the previous video release. The original monophonic audio has been preserved in a Dolby ...
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DVD (Special Edition / Repackaged / Pan & Scan)
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Overview

Jamaa Fanaka's gritty and idiosyncratic blend of blaxploitation, sports drama, and life-behind-bars thriller gets a third round on DVD in this release from Xenon Pictures. Penitentiary has been given a letterboxed transfer to disc in the widescreen aspect ratio of 1.85:1; while the image hasn't been enhanced for 16 x 9 monitors, the new transfer is clean, well-detailed, and struck from better-looking source materials than the previous video release. The original monophonic audio has been preserved in a Dolby Digital Stereo track, which sounds about as good as the original materials would permit. Writer, director, and producer Fanaka contributes a commentary track as a bonus, and while there's a fair amount of dead air, he does offer some interesting background on how the film got made he was still a student at UCLA when he shot the movie, and used some of the school's equipment and facilities during the production. Scratchy trailers for Penitentiary and Penitentiary II round out the package, which is a definite improvement over this movie's earlier incarnations on video.
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Special Features

Commentary from legendary writer/director Jamaa Fanaka
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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide
This gritty cult favorite, a major independent hit in 1979, makes up in energy and attitude what it lacks in slickness and believable plotting. The boxing-in-prison premise of Penitentiary requires a major suspension of disbelief for the audience, but viewers who can make that mental leap will be rewarded by an always-interesting effort that fuses elements of gritty reality with surreal set pieces that stick in the memory. Penitentiary's main asset is the personalized touch that writer/director Jamaa Fanaka brings to the film. No matter how odd the plotting becomes, he takes great care to create distinctive, intriguing characters and compellingly dramatic situations that hook the viewer in. He also shows great skill at crafting intense action scenes, the most memorable being Half Dead's fight with Too Sweet in the confines of their cell. The acting is raw but sincere and thus a solid match for the story. Leon Isaac Kennedy fuels Too Sweet with plenty of charisma, Donovan Womack adds a humanizing element of self-doubt to the bullying Jesse, and Badja Djola is positively terrifying as the mindlessly brutal Half Dead. On the downside, some of the story elements are too strange to accept (especially the idea of female prisoners being brought in to watch the fights) and the ending is a little too pat and upbeat to be believed. However, it rises above these problems thanks to the obvious amount of heart that Fanaka pours into the film and his ability to surprise the viewer with offbeat twists. In short, Penitentiary is probably a little too eccentric for the average viewer but has plenty to offer cult movie fanatics and blaxploitation fans.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 1/24/2006
  • UPC: 000799436424
  • Original Release: 1979
  • Rating:

  • Source: Xenon
  • Region Code: 1
  • Presentation: Special Edition / Repackaged / Pan & Scan
  • Language: English
  • Time: 1:39:00
  • Format: DVD
  • Sales rank: 27,228

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Leon Isaac Kennedy Too Sweet
Thommy Pollard Eugene
Hazel Spears Linda
Badja Djola Wilson
Gloria Delaney Inmate
Chuck Mitchell Lt. Arnsworth
Wilbur "HiFi" White Sweet Pea
Jamaa Fanaka
Mykelti Williamson
Technical Credits
Jamaa Fanaka Director, Producer, Screenwriter
Betsy Blankett Editor
Frankie Gaye Score Composer
Adel Mazen Art Director
Marty Ollstein Cinematographer
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Scene Index

Disc #1 -- Penitentiary
1. Beaver Seven [5:30]
2. On the Inside [15:05]
3. Riding the Buster [11:06]
4. Five Fingers [3:16]
5. Too Sweet Signs Up [8:27]
6. Fight Night in Lingerie [7:46]
7. Second Round [16:07]
8. Sweet vs. Magilla [5:26]
9. 1st Connubial Visit [7:18]
10. Chump Dies Tonight [5:57]
11. Sweet vs. Amos [5:51]
12. Free Man [7:09]
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Menu

Disc #1 -- Penitentiary
   Play Movie
   Scene Selection
   Special Features
      Penitentiary Trailer
      Director Commentary: On/Off
      Penitentiary 2 Trailer
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    I can defiantly see why this is one of John Singleton’s favorite films

    This film was really good.After watching this I found the fight between Too sweet and Half dead particularly interesting. Through out this film you will also find some of the characters to be animated with there jail house humor and realism through others such as Too Sweet’s trainer. The cinematography wasn’t bad also. The use of the wide angle lenses to give the viewer a distorted view was impressive and the way some characters address the camera was interesting and strange at the same time. Some people say that part two is even funnier and I might give it a try later in the future. This exploitation is a masterpiece, PENITENTIARY (1979) is especially worth watching because of its strange, neo-realism. An almost all-unknown cast (that also contributes a lot to the movie's appeal), realistic 1970s African American dialog and backgrounds, realistic and mind-bending scenes of perverse violence and huge doses of humor make this a blast in every department. It’s a must-see if you’re a fan of this genre and one to check out.

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews