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WOMEN OF SAN QUENTIN (1983) ***

Most horror fans know Amy Steel as the feisty Final Girl Ginny from Friday the 13th Part 2. Two years after leaving an impression on moviegoers, she migrated to the small screen for Women of San Quentin. This is a different kind of Women in Prison movie. Instead of the women being inmates, they’re the guards!

Stella Stevens is excellent as the head guard who runs the toughest cellblock in the prison. Steel is the fresh-faced new recruit who is taken under Stevens’ wing. Steel not only has to put up with sexism from the male prisoners, but other guards as well. Meanwhile, Stevens is torn between accepting a promotion and staying in a job that just flat-out kicks ass at. While they both deal with the emotional struggles that come with working in the prison, they also have to contend with an impending race riot that is brewing within the prison walls.

The only knock against Women of San Quentin is that it’s a TV movie. That means it can't get as down and dirty as it really should get. Since the great television vet William A. (Get Christy Love!) Graham was behind the camera, the flick is well-shot, has a breezy pace, and features some dynamite acting.

Seriously, no matter what faults it has, it’s hard to hate any movie that contains:

• Debbie Allen as a tough-talking guard.

• Yaphet Kotto as the experienced guard who shows Steel the ropes.

• Gregg Henry as a nice inmate who might be a potential weasel.

• Hector Elizondo as the crew chief who is carrying on an affair with Stevens.

• Ernie Hudson as the reluctant leader of the black gangs.

• William Sanderson as a nut who tries to cut a guard’s throat.

Oh, and did I mention it’s co-written by Larry Cohen? Don’t you feel like you want to see it now?

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