Big House, U.S.A.


Crime / Drama / Film-Noir / Thriller

Rotten Tomatoes Critics - Rotten 36%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience - Spilled 36%
IMDb Rating 6.6/10 10 1160 1.2K


Top cast

Charles Bronson as Benny Kelly
Lon Chaney Jr. as Alamo Smith
William Boyett as Ranger at Park Exit
Ralph Meeker as Gerry Barker
720p.BLU 1080p.BLU
763.61 MB
English 2.0
23.976 fps
1 hr 23 min
Seeds 4
1.38 GB
English 2.0
23.976 fps
1 hr 23 min
Seeds 12

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by secondtake 7 / 10

NOT a typical prison picture--an amazing cast, a major twist, great locations...

Big House U.S.A. (1955)

This is quite a surprise. At first you are lulled into thinking we're in an ordinary crime drama: a rich kid is kidnapped from a Colorado mountain summer camp. A ransom is demanded, the kidnapper, working alone, is caught for a different crime and thrown in jail. All of this takes awhile to happen and is pretty interesting, especially set out in the big landscape and bright air of the Rockies.

But then our main character finds himself in a jail cell with some hardened thugs. This is where any movie lover will sit up. Listen to the cast of characters.

Broderick Crawford, who plays loud and brash characters as good as anyone, and who is sharp as a whip here, the gangleader and intellectual.

Ralph Meeker, the man who played Mike Hammer in the following year's "Kiss Me Deadly" and is a good hardened criminal.

William Talman, most memorable in Ida Lupino's "The Hitchhiker" as the sinister kidnapper with one eye which stayed open even when he slept, and here plays an equally cold and brutal type.

Lon Chaney (this would be Lon Chaney Jr. of course) who continued his career are "Wolfman" in roles demanding his broad nice guy quality that here gets twisted since he's also a thug.

Charles Bronson, yes, whose big fame was still ahead ("Magnificent Seven" and "The Great Escape") and who appears here without his shirt on, of course (he's ripped).

The rest of the movie follows these men as they escape, audaciously, and begin to rip into each other in an effort to find the hidden ransom money.

There are a few stumbles and improbable turns here, but it's all done with such high stakes energy it really works. The one wet blanket on the whole thing is the overlay the producers add to the plot giving credit to the police forces who intrepidly solve the crime (the F.B.I. in particular), almost as if a government mandate.

But never mind the drawbacks. If you watch this for its inventive energy and cast of characters, you'll be amazed. I'd watch it twice, even with the sometimes clunky direction. It's that fun.

Reviewed by Doylenf 6 / 10

Grim documentary style prison drama is gritty and realistic...

The story begins with a lost boy, a kidnapping, a ransom as extortionist RALPH MEEKER takes advantage of a situation which led to the death of the boy. The F.B.I. is soon on the case when the boy's father reports his disappearance. Meeker is sent to an island prison to serve a sentence as an extortionist who has $200,000 hidden somewhere.

He's thrown in with some hardened criminal types--CHARLES BRONSON, BRODERICK CRAWFORD, LON CHANEY, JR.--labeled "the Iceman" because of his cool demeanor and icy gaze. Crawford has one of the film's best lines: "Well, the iceman cometh." Since no prison drama would be complete without an escape plan being hatched, BIG HOUSE U.S.A. is no exception. The suspense lies mainly in the survival of Meeker who is known as the most hated man in prison because he harmed a boy. Crawford devises an escape plan that includes Meeker, "the goose that laid the golden egg", so he can share the hidden loot with them. Of course, it's a crime doesn't pay melodrama, so in the end all their best laid plans go awry.

Nice outdoor photography in Royal Gorge Park, Colorado, for the rugged scenes in the finale.

Summing up: Well worth your time--interesting and gritty.

Reviewed by planktonrules 8 / 10

Gritty and awful--and I liked that about this film!

The film begins with a little boy getting lost while at summer camp. Ralph Meeker finds the boy and pretends to be helping him, but actually is intent on kidnapping him and holding him for a huge ransom. Unfortunately, the kid dies while in his care but Meeker is an animal and STILL proceeds to get the money and then tries to skip town. However, the cold and calculating killer is caught and sent to prison--but unfortunately, all they can prove is that he extorted the money--not that he had anything to do with the boy's disappearance.

This is sort of like a prison movie merged with a Film Noir flick. That's because much of the beginning and ending of the film is set outside prison and its style throughout was rather Noir inspired--with a format much like an episode of DRAGNET (the bloodier 1950s version, not the late 60s incarnation). However, it did lack some of the great Noir camera-work and lighting as well as the cool Noir lingo--but it still succeeded in telling a great story. What was definitely Noir was the unrelentingly awful and brutal nature of the film--a plus for Noir fans. Now I hate violent and bloody films, but this one was a bit more restrained but still very shocking for a 1950s audience--featuring some of the most brutal plot elements of the decade (tossing a child's body off a cliff, burning a corpse with a blowtorch to confuse in the identification of another corpse and the scene with the escaped prisoner who is scalded to death). Because of all this, the film was above all else, realistic and shocking--much of it due to the excellent script, straight-forward acting and a few excellent and unexpected plot twists.

By the way, this is one of the earliest films in which Charles Bronson appears with this name (previously, he'd been billed as "Charlie Buchinsky"). When he takes his shirt off in the film, take a look at how muscle-bound he was--I sure would have hated to have tangled with him!! In his prime, he might have been the most buff actor in Hollywood history who DIDN'T suck down steroids (and, consequently, had minuscule testicles from this drug).

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