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Big House, U.S.A.

Big House, U.S.A.(1955)

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At the end of the film, a written epilog reads: "The Producers wish to thank the friendly people of Canon City, Colorado and the directors and personnel of the Royal Gorge Park for their cooperation in making this picture possible." Voice-over narration by Roy Roberts, as "Chief Ranger Will Erickson," is heard intermittently during the first half of the film, after which Reed Hadley, as "James Madden," takes over as narrator. As noted in the onscreen credits, the picture was partially shot on location in Canon City and the Royal Gorge Park, CO. August 1954 Hollywood Reporter news items indicate the producers had initially considered filming at Carson City, NV, Mt. Rainier and Yosemite National Park. November 1954 Hollywood Reporter news items reported that underwater filming took place at Malibu Beach, CA, and that a second unit spent two days on "atmospheric shooting" in Salt Lake City, UT.
       The film features some exterior footage of the Cascabel Island Prison, which was on Isla San Pedro Mrtir in the Gulf of Mexico. Hollywood Reporter news items and contemporary photographs indicate that the interior prison scenes were shot at McNeil Island Federal Penitentiary in Washington, however.
       According to a March 29, 1956 Daily Variety news item, the Senate Juvenile Delinquency Sub-Committee singled out Big House, U.S.A. "as a picture having too much emphasis on violence and crime," thereby negatively influencing young viewers. In defending the film, producer Aubrey Schenck stated, "more stress should have been placed [by the committee] upon parental control over children susceptible to such films." Schenck also noted that "scaring people is popular entertainment and can be had not only in theatres but in every amusement park and public library."
       Big House, U.S.A. marked the first film of Bel-Air Productions, which was formed by Schenck and Howard Koch. Previously, their production company had been known as Schenck-Koch Productions. According to a November 1954 Hollywood Reporter news item, 100 percent of the film's funding was supplied by United Artists. Big House, U.S.A. also marked the motion picture debut of actress Felicia Farr, who was credited onscreen as Randy Farr. An October 1954 Hollywood Reporter news item includes William Boyette in the cast, but his appearance in the released picture has not been completed. Modern sources add January Merlin (Boat captain) and Bart Burns (Warden) to the cast.