“Home, sweet home — just like the big cage at the zoo, only you clean it up instead of the keeper.”
Eleanor Parker gives a sympathetic performance as a naive, poverty-ridden young woman who undergoes a drastic change in personality once she realizes how incurably corrupt the prison system is:
Her role here hints at the even more impressive performance she would later give as a woman with split personalities in Hugo Haas’s Lizzie (1957). Equally memorable is Hope Emerson as a truly sadistic warden with nary a shred of empathy in her bones; while she was apparently a lovely woman in real life, this remains (for better or for worse) the on-screen role she’s most commonly associated with.
Meanwhile, Agnes Moorehead (as the prison’s director) serves as Emerson’s moral counterpoint, wanting the best for “her girls” yet dealing with massive political resistance at every turn.
Carl Guthrie’s atmospheric cinematography adds to the film’s potency, effectively evoking the horror-ridden nature of the screenplay, which pulls no punches in its depiction of prison-life as a noxious brew of corruption.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments: