The movie is noted today for the appearance of Moore, and for Lupino's performance as the aggressively cruel warden. In the 1980s this movie became rather popular, Sony Pictures subsequently released it in the boxed set Bad Girls of Film Noir: Volume II along with One Girl's Confession and Over-Exposed.
Checking in women s prison 1955
A ruthless superintendent of a prison, Amelia van Zandt, makes life hell for the female inmates. Her rules are rigid and she makes no exceptions.
The newcomer Helene Jensen is not a hardened criminal by any means, but a woman convicted of vehicular homicide after she accidentally killed a child. Out of place here, Helene is so distraught that Van Zandt has her placed in solitary confinement, making it even worse. Helene nearly dies.
The prison has two wings, one for women, one for men. One of the inmates, Joan Burton, has been illicitly having conjugal relations late at night with her husband, Glen, a convict in the other wing. Now she is expecting a baby, and brutal men's warden Brock issues a stern warning to Van Zandt that she'd better find out how the two prisoners have been arranging these meetings.
Joan has the sympathy of the decent Dr. Crane who's in charge of the infirmary and disapproves of the cruel treatment of prisoners he sees. But the heartless Van Zandt goes into a literally homicidal rage while interrogating Joan, beating the pregnant prisoner to death.
A protest erupts in the women's cell block, beginning with a hunger strike organized by Joan's cell mate, Brenda Martin, then turning into a full-scale riot. Naive or timid inmates are swept up along with the vicious, veteran ones, and there is much bloodshed before the uprising is quelled. Dr. Crane intends to go to the prison board and accuse Van Zandt of murder.
Ida Lupino as Amelia van Zandt
Jan Sterling as Brenda Martin
Cleo Moore as Mae
Audrey Totter as Joan Burton
Phyllis Thaxter as Helene Jensen
Howard Duff as Dr. Crane
Warren Stevens as Glen Burton
Barry Kelley as Warden Brock
Gertrude Michael as Matron Sturgess
Vivian Marshall as Dottie LaRose
Mae Clarke as Matron Saunders
Ross Elliott as Don Jensen
Adelle August as Grace
Don C. Harvey as Chief Guard Tierney
Juanita Moore as "Polly" Jones
The staff at Variety magazine praised some of the actors in the film, "Sterling scores nicely as a tough moll, Cleo Moore is a typical femme inmate and Vivian Marshall, as an ex-stripteaser gone wrong, shines in some amusing impersonations."