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17 user 18 critic

Big House, U.S.A. (1955)

Jerry Barker finds a lost boy whose rich father is extorted into paying a ransom for his return but the boy accidentally dies and Jerry goes to prison.

Director:

Howard W. Koch

Writers:

John C. Higgins, George W. George (story) (as George George) | 1 more credit »
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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Broderick Crawford ... Rollo Lamar
Ralph Meeker ... Jerry Barker
Reed Hadley ... Special FBI Agent James Madden
William Talman ... William 'Machine Gun' Mason
Lon Chaney Jr. ... Alamo Smith (as Lon Chaney)
Charles Bronson ... Benny Kelly
Felicia Farr ... Emily Euridice Evans (as Randy Farr)
Roy Roberts ... Chief Ranger Will Erickson
Willis Bouchey ... Robertson Lambert (as Willis B. Bouchey)
Peter J. Votrian ... Danny Lambert (as Peter Votrian)
Robert Bray ... Ranger McCormick
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Storyline

When young Danny Lambert runs away from camp in south-central Colorado, he becomes the object of a park-wide-search by his wealthy father Robertson Lambert. He is found by Jerry Barker and told to wait at an abandoned look-out tower while he goes for help. Instead, Barker calls the father and demands $200,000 ransom. The money is delivered and Barker buries most of it. Meanwhile, the panicky boy has fallen from the tower to his death, and Barker drops the body off a cliff. The FBI, led by James Madden, capture Barker but can't convict him of kidnapping and he is given only five years for extortion and sent to Casabel Island Prison. There he is assigned a cell with Rollo Lambar, Alamo Smith, Benny Kelly and Machine Gun Mason. The FBI have now traced an affiliation between Barker and Emily Evans, a nurse at Danny's camp. The five cell-mates, led by Rollo, who plans to kill Benny and dress him in Barker's clothes to throw off the police, execute an underwater prison escape, and head ... Written by Les Adams <longhorn1939@suddenlink.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

We're bustin' out of this tomb... And we don't care how many of you we have to kill! See more »


Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »
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Details

Official Sites:

MGM

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

18 November 1955 (Belgium) See more »

Also Known As:

Blutgeld See more »

Filming Locations:

Malibu, California, USA See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

(Turner library print)

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.75 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Motion picture debut of actress Felicia Farr, credited onscreen as Randy Farr. See more »

Goofs

Shadow of equipment in foreground when the 3 escapees are talking about fishing with the park ranger on horseback. See more »

Quotes

Rollo Lamar: I'm gonna kidnap a kidnapper for the money he kidnapped for.
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User Reviews

 
Per the Lindbergh Law
14 April 2014 | by bkoganbingSee all my reviews

Big House USA sounds like a prison picture, but only in part of the film is the setting a maximum security prison. There is the part how Ralph Meeker got there and the last part about his escape with several other solid citizens, residents of Big House USA.

A young boy with one rich father is kidnapped by Meeker and dies while in his custody. Not that he killed him, but kidnapping alone as per the Lindbergh law gets him the gas chamber. Father Willis Bouchey pays the ransom, but gets no child back.

Meeker is arrested, but all he's charged with is extortion, without a body dead or alive, the authorities can do no more. But with the reputation as a child killer, Meeker's not going to be a popular guy even in the maximum security federal penitentiary he's sent.

But cell-mate Broderick Crawford has other ideas about the ransom money never recovered and buried in a national park. He and confederates Lon Chaney, Jr., William Talman, and Charles Bronson escape with Meeker. They had an escape plan in the works already, a quite ingenious one which costs another prisoner his life during a dry run.

A chance to see all these guys in a film is never to be passed up. Crawford we're told is a smart guy. Personally if he were that smart he'd have realized that the authorities would know full well he was heading for the park and go anywhere else. But greed overtakes intelligence.

There's also a nice role here for Felicia Farr as Meeker's accomplice. FBI man Reed Hadley and chief forest ranger Roy Roberts represent the law.

Big House USA spends more time in the wide open spaces than in a maximum security prison. Still it's a tight little noir film with a fine cast of players.


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