Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Slams

Jonathan Kaplan (THE ACCUSED) began his directing career with two money-making sexploitation movies for Roger Corman and then moved on to 1973's THE SLAMS, a crisp action picture produced by Roger’s brother Gene Corman.

Kaplan was 25 years old and working with the mercurial football star Jim Brown, perfectly cast as Curtis Hook, who rips off $1.5 million in drug money from the Mob and stashes it on an abandoned boardwalk. Hook gets busted and sent to “The Slams,” a maximum security prison holding four times as many inmates as it was built to hold. Hook is content to do his one-to-five until he learns the boardwalk is due for demolition, forcing him to engineer a frantic escape.

Lean, brutal B-picture released by MGM is refreshingly free of subplots and extraneous backstories. Corruption and casual racism run rampant in a society populated solely by bad guys, most prominently watch commander Stambell (Roland "Bob" Harris), whose quest to get the money drives him to threaten Hook’s lady Iris (THE YOUNG LAWYERS’ Judy Pace). Richard Adams’ dialogue is tough and raw with no shortage of racial epithets. His prison escape is quite clever and expertly staged by Kaplan, whose confidence belies his tender age.

Also impressive is Kaplan’s eye for casting, which extends to the interesting faces of his weatherbeaten prisoners and to big Ted Cassidy (THE ADDAMS FAMILY’s Lurch), one of the few supporting actors who could stand a chance in a fight with Jim Brown. Andrew Davis, later a fine director himself (THE FUGITIVE), served as Kaplan’s cinematographer, and COOL BREEZE star Thalmus Rasulala receives an assistant director credit. Also with Paul Harris, Herbert Jefferson Jr. (BATTLESTAR GALACTICA), Quinn Redeker, John Lupton, Jan Merlin, Robert Phillips, Charles Cyphers (HALLOWEEN), Carmen Argenziano (THE HOT BOX), and—it’s a Jonathan Kaplan picture, after all—Dick Miller.

The same year, Brown starred in another prison picture for Gene Corman, I ESCAPED FROM DEVIL’S ISLAND, which was also written by Richard Adams.

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