There was an improvisational air to much of the dialogue spouted by both Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor in Stir Crazy, a frenetic prison farce designed to juxtapose the very different comic talents of its two stars.
Both losers – Skip Donahue (Wilder) is a would-be playwright and Harry Monroe (Pryor) a would-be actor – they decide to try California after making no headway in New York and set off on the long drive in their battered van.
In Arizona, however, they are arrested for a bank robbery they didn’t commit (via a case of chicken-suited mistaken identity) and are given 120 years in the slammer.
How they manage to outwit their warders, guards, and fellow prisoners (one of whom is a crazed killer, and another a lisping gay man) was the main concern of the film, which Wilder and Pryor merely used as a springboard for doing their own thing while director Sidney Poitier seemed to simply point the camera in the direction of his stars – with erratic results.
A short-lived 1985-1986 CBS TV series of the same name starred Joe Guzaldo and Larry Riley as Skip Harrington and Harry Fletcher. The pair escaped from their prison chain gang and went in search of the real killer (Marc Silver). Chasing them was Captain Betty Phillips (Jeannie Wilson).
George Stanford Brown
Erland Van Lidth de Jeude
Miguel Angel Suarez
Deputy Ward Wilson
Craig T Nelson
Warden Walter Beatty
Warden Henry Sampson