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rare female film critic | by maryann johanson

Prisoner: Cell Block H: 25th Anniversary Collector’s Edition

This women-behind-bars serial drama, a cult favorite around the world, arrives finally on DVD, but the package is more constrained than the show’s characters. The series, which originally ran in Australia from 1979 to 1986, was shot on video and has held up remarkably well… from a technical standpoint, at least. While the picture remains crisp, it only serves to highlight the cheap sets and bad acting that the show is as infamous for as its ludicrously soapy plots revolving around riots, body searches, lesbianism, hostage taking, escapes, and fights to the death at Wentworth Detention Centre. The cheap sordidness is part of its charm, of course, but this set cherry-picks 12 episodes from throughout the series’ 692-episode run, from the early first appearance of the notorious “evil lesbian” guard Joan “The Freak” Ferguson (Maggie Kirkpatrick) to the apparently legendary “terrorist siege” storyline to the super-sudsy finale. As an introduction to potential new fans, it’s frustratingly scattershot — soaps are all about character, and we don’t spend enough time for anyone to really get involved. The episode culling condemns this package to be of interest to the already initiated, who’ll appreciated the bonus interviews with selected cast and crew.

MPAA: not rated

viewed at home on a small screen

posted in:
tv on dvd

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