Stir (1980)

directed by:Stephen Wallace

cast:Bryan Brown, Max Phipps, Dennis Miller

Too exploitative to fall into the Arthouse cinema category and too talky albeit based on/revolving around social commentary and true life events, “Stir” is a mildly interesting curio from down under

Filmed in the Clare Valley, Gladstone and the Flinders Ranges in South Australia, this prison movie was inspired by the true life prison riot at Bathurst Jail in 1974 and its subsequent Royal Commission into New South Wales Prisons.

Despite having been received with critical acclaim upon theatrical release, Stir is a flawed affair with a few redeeming values nonetheless.While the performances by the cast are decent and the screenplay penned by the former convict Bob Jewson is more or less realistic, especially in depicting the extravagant sadism of the Australian correctional officers towards the convicts,who are often times brutally beaten to a pulp and  are graphically enough  being characterized as animals,bastards,crims and a whole other array of defamatory adjectives pronounced with an unparallelled Aussie nastiness , on the other hand it downplays the turmoil and the hostilities ever present in the inner microcosm of any sort of jail. The prisoners are depicted as humane and tormented beings that mostly want the best for their community .To be frank, the fact that there are no powerstruggles behind the slammer walls or prison gangs in this movie puzzles me.

Let’s face it ,the prison system doesn’t necessarily promote equal rights ,equal opportunities , fraternization and solidarity among  convicts . The prison Panopticon is hard as nails and all prisoners abide by the “survival of the fittest” axiom . Despite all their trials and tribulations , the convicts in the movie seem too pacifistic or hesitant to stand up and fight for their rights.

Regardless of the fact that the depiction of the inmates is rather anticlimactic , the warden and the correctional officers are themselves a whole other story . Overly sadistic and brutal they are pretty much  the exploitative element of this movie . Their reactions bear no respect for human life and their agenda before and after the riot remains unchanged.

Verdict:Despite its social sensibilities and humanitarian overtones, this prison drama is in its core a gritty and nasty affair that borders with Exploitation cinema . I honestly doubt if this flick is the quintessential Australian prison drama , however my knowledge on that subject matter is rather limited.

A very obscure curio that no one talks about ,”Stir” could be a worthwhile  addition to your Ozploitation collection, but it is by no means a movie whose subject matter will stay with for a long time.


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