Secret Cinema Presents Outside the Wall, a Prison Film Shot in Eastern State Penitentiary…at Eastern State Penitentiary

Artwork for the original movie poster.

Artwork for the original movie poster.

What could be cooler than watching a locally shot prison (and parole) film from inside the very same prison where it was shot 66 years earlier? How about watching it outside Al Capone’s old cell?

Jay Schwartz, founder of the Secret Cinema — a film series that has made a name for itself by showing only 16mm films — sets up his projector and screen in the historic prison’s hallway directly outside the gangster’s former holding pen. Schwartz likes this spot in the prison the most because “you have the best peripheral vision of prison bars while you’re watching the movie… You definitely have a constant reminder of where you are.”

In 1998, Eastern State Penitentiary’s director of public programming, Sean Kelley, asked Schwartz if he wanted to screen a prison movie inside the prison. This began a beautiful friendship between the two organizations, now in its 17th year. That first year, Kelley suggested Secret Cinema screen a 1950 movie he knew was partially shot onsite called Outside the Wall, starring Richard Basehart and directed by Crane Wilbur. The only problem was that a 16 mm film print was nowhere to be found and Schwartz thought he might never track it down.

Schwartz presented other prison themed work, including Laurel and Hardy’s 1931 Pardon Us, Ray McCarey’s 1940 Millionaires in Prison, and the 1978 classic, Scared Straight. Through the years, Schwartz put out feelers in the film world to locate a print, but no dice. Finally, this summer he found the film from an archive in Europe. Fans of jailhouse films can catch Outside the Wall this Friday, September 11. Doors open at 7 pm for the 8 pm screening. Tickets are $10. For more information, visit the Secret Cinema website.