Shawshank for 1972
College professor Jonathon Paige (Alan Alda) finds himself convicted of manslaughter after attacking and killing a driver who mowed down a woman pushing a pram. He finds himself heading to prison with a young kid who got done for drug possession and is not prepared for what meets him inside. On the same day Brian Courtland (Clu Gulager) is starting at the prison as a guard with his only experience of prison being during Vietnam. But they each discover about life inside as Hugo Slocum (Vic Morrow) is the chief prisoner who bosses everyone around and deals with drugs and who the chief guard lets get away with it in order to keep the harmony inside the prison walls.
Sometimes I wish I could jump back in time, forgetting all which I know and experience a movie for the first time when it came out. That is most certainly how I feel when it comes to "The Glass House" the prison movie from 1972 as having watched many newer prison movies the effect of this one is most certainly lessened especially when you have watched "The Shawshank Redemption". I would imagine that back in 1972 this had some incredible power but unfortunately now comes across as cliche.
What that means is that we basically get 3 experiences of prison life starting with Jonathon Paige who finds himself falling foul of Slocum and his gang when he makes a stand against their bullying. We also see the young kid who is ill prepared for prison life and it doesn't take a genius to know this guy is going to suffer some terrible treatment inside and yes I do mean rape. Plus we have Courtland the new guard who seems to have some morals and who might or might not rally against the corruption he comes across in the prison system. But as I said all of this now feels like cliche because of the numerous other prison movies which have come since and whilst some of it is still shocking the grim reality of prison life does not have the same power.
But what "The Glass House" has is acting and atmosphere with the latter coming from the fact that this was shot in an actual prison with prisoners making up the extras. But the acting comes from Alan Alda and he plays a fantastic character who we can't quite work out on initially meeting him as he doesn't say word, lost in his own thoughts of which may be remorse, maybe fear we just cannot tell. Plus there is Vic Morrow who is more cocky than thuggish but also comes across as dangerous.
What this all boils down to is that "The Glass House" is whilst over 40 years old is still a solid prison movie with some powerful scenes and some good performances. But since this TV movie was made there have been plenty more prison movies and so the power of this one has lessened some.