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Punishment Park (1971)

In the near future, America has descended into chaos and the US government has responded by imposing the Internal Security Act of 1950 – more commonly known as ‘the McCarran Act’ – which suspends many civil liberties and gives militant prisoners (hippies, draft dodgers, folk singers and anti-establishment types) the choice between a long jail term and taking part in a challenge at ‘Punishment Park’ to win their freedom.

‘Punishment Park’ requires that the prisoners survive for 96 hours on a harsh cross-country journey of 53 miles through the Mojave Desert without food or water to reach a flag without being recaptured.

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Hunting them are several members of the local sheriff’s department and National Guard.

The pursuit is followed by English and German camera crews who are filming documentaries for tv (the film is presented in quasi-documentary style) but as the crews watch, they realise that the pursuing law enforcement officers are trigger-happy and only too willing to shoot the unarmed protestors.

“Those kids made their decisions,” says a sunburned patrolman, shifting the weight of his 12-gauge Remington pump-action shotgun before setting out in pursuit of Penal Group No. 367. “And I’ve made mine. They wanted to destroy America, so now they’re out here. I want to protect it, so I’m here too.”

Punishment Park is an incredibly charged and angry film and is as pertinent today as it was back in 1971. Perhaps even more so.

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A winner in the 1971 Atlanta Film Festival, the film was pulled from distribution in England within a week of its opening and was refused screening in the US where even today television channels will not screen the film.

Jay Kaufman
Carmen Argenziano
Charles Robbins
Stan Armsted
Captain, Sheriff’s Department
Jim Bohan
Professor Daly
Frederick Franklyn
Mrs Jergens
Gladys Golden
Senator Harris
Sanford Golden
Mr Keagan
George Gregory
Jim Reedman
Gary Johnson
Luke Valerio
Luke Johnson
Jane Reeman
Michele Johnson
Chairman Hoeger
Mark Keats
Allison Mitchner
Mary Ellen Kleinhall
FBI Agent Donovan
Lee Marks
Nancy Smith
Katherine Quittner
Professor Hazlett
Sigmund Rich
Paul Reynolds
Paul Rosenstein
Mr Sully
Norman Sinclair
Janus Kohler
Scott Turner
Militants
Harold Beaulieu
Cynthia Jenkins
Jack London
Rob Lewine
Roland Gonzalez
Jack Gozdick
Brian Hart
Linda Mandel
Don Pino
Jason Sunners
Conchita Thornton
Ted Martin
Harold Schneider
Police
Paul Alelyanes
Kerry Canon
Bob Franklin
Bruce Maguire
Ron Pennington
Allen Powell
Jim Wettstein
National Guardsmen
Danny Conlon
Wally Mckay
Cliff Pinard
Don Vann
Charlie Wyatt

Director
Peter Watkins