8 October 2012 | bkoganbing
What makes a convict tick?
A no big name cast, but a lot of solid character players make My Six Convicts a really original and worthwhile film about our penal system. What makes a convict tick, that's what psychologist John Beal is in the state prison system to find out and you be the judge if he did.
Beal is sent to San Quentin and since that's where this film was shot, I'll use that as the prison name to find out to see if we can better rehabilitate convicts. Actually part of the answer is supplied in Goodfellas where Henry Hill says that people who work are stupid. Just take what you want at least until you get caught.
This film is about the thousands of guys who aren't connected who do wind up in the joint for one reason or another, that group you saw demanding their meals while the wiseguys were dining elegantly. As in every prison picture any place of incarceration has its own set of rules and code which one had better learn quickly.
Beal needs a staff and he comes up with six of them, Gilbert Roland, Millard Mitchell, Alf Kjellin, Marshall Thompson, Jay Adler, and Harry Morgan. All join up with Beal for their own reasons, but all of them worry about confidentiality, a real important thing in Beal's research. But it's also something that the cons worry about when it comes to being a stool pigeon. And that's a guy with no popularity and limited life expectancy.
The six convicts are quite a study in convict Americana. Although all of these guys are near and dear as great character players my favorites would have to be Millard Mitchell, Gilbert Roland, and Jay Adler. Mitchell is your old convict who knows the system inside out and how and when to play people to get what he wants, he was an ace safecracker by trade before going in. Roland is a gangster who is doing his time and waiting to be deported where on his stashed loot he's going to live the good life.
Adler was a truly sad case, a guy who got greedy and caught and who is a great example of recidivism. After he gets his parole he doesn't know what to do on the outside so he deliberately violates parole to get back. A truly institutionalized human being and between the time of the making of this film and now, no one has found a way to deal with that.
My Six Convicts from Columbia's B picture unit is a great film of some wonderful case studies of the criminal mind.