2012 Film Challenge #16 - Porridge

I've never really seen the TV series on which this is based before. Of course I've been in the room whilst it's been on, but we sort of kept out of each others way. Never did this mutual tolerance extend to actual engagement with one another. Fletcher and friends entertained themselves whilst I tried not to make eye contact.

But having seen this film, that's something I'll have to redress should the opportunity ever arise. But it never seems to be on any more. And I'm not so keen that I'll consider buying a boxset. Sorry, Ronnie.

There were two curious aspects of the plot. First, a screw started work at the prison at about the same time as a new inmate arrived. They were both finding their feet at the same time – both immersed in the same environment but in vastly different worlds.

Then came the marvellous conceit of prisoners trying to break in to prison. This reversal of the standard prison-film fare feels unique, but I suppose it was quite necessary. The film's set one year before the series ended. To have Fletcher involved in the antics you'd expect from a cinematic inmate would be to break canon and continuity. He has to remain inside. Poor guy.

Until he goes straight, of course.

Filmed entirely on location in an actual real prison, this made for an atmosphere that was cold, clinical and stifling, but also surprisingly cosy. With the heating turned up, such locales as the screw bar and Fletcher's cell would become havens in the midst of the grime.

And it ended in exactly the same way as did every single episode of every single British sitcom of the seventies – with a cheeky visual punchline and a freeze frame.


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