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Category:    Home > Reviews > Documentary > Stage > Plays > Literature > Prison > Shakespeare Behind Bars (Documentary)

Shakespeare Behind Bars (Documentary)


Picture: C     Sound: C+     Extras: C+     Documentary: B-



There is a certain strange hypocrisy in our society about crime and criminals.  We see them glorified and celebrated in music (Country Outlaws and Hip Hop Gangsters, for instance) and the Gangster genre is as big as ever.  But like the glorification of drugs, it is not as pretty when the fun and energy has run out.  This brings us to prison and prisoners.  We love watching fiction about them as hit TV shows like Oz and Prison Break continue to prove, but it is odd how disposable people in jail suddenly become in real life to the same audience.  That is why Hank Rogerson’s Shakespeare Behind Bars is of particular interest.


Here are a group of convicted felons down in a prison in Kentucky learning what is considered high culture and has a new wave of snobbery and elitism attached to it of late, yet they can relate to the “dregs” and criminal characters better than those living the life.  The bard can only go so far as a substitute for life experience, no matter how great he was.  We learn about each man and why he is there.  We see they really arte grasping the material and counter to what some elitists might think, having his books and plays alone would not have prevented them from landing up in jail.  The documentary never addresses this one way or the other, but some people are just so ignorant.  If anything, it simply reminds us that we could easily be any of them under the worst circumstances, especially at a time social programs and safety nets have been annihilated for tax cuts.


The anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image is softer than expected from some slight fine digititis and was shot on video, but likely not HD.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 is simple stereo at best, but has varying quality in how talking was captured.  The combination can be rough, but is still watchable.  Extras include deleted scenes, trailers for two other Shout! Releases, director’s commentary, prisoner’s commentary and update on the prisoners since this was released.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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