Tony Mastroianni Review Collection
Prison Movie Rings False
Cleveland Press August 28, 1971
The subject matter of "Fortune and Men's Eyes" is basically sordid but that is not the picture's main fault.
It is both exploitive and melodramatic and by the time it has made its hysterical way to its conclusion it is just unbelievable.
The movie, as did the off-Broadway play, deals with homosexuality in prison. That the problem exists has been documented frequently enough but in spite of such documentation the movie in the end rings false.
This is the familiar bit about the basically nice guy getting tossed into jail and emerging shortly as hardboiled as the old-timers.
The film is explicit in its detailing of homosexual rape; presents as an ever present problem of the newer, weaker inmate the choice of teaming up with one man or being at the mercy of all the prisoners.
It's a pretty harrowing work but too often it is shrill and melodramatic.
Wendell Burton at first seems perfectly cast as the nice guy. That he is miscast is apparent with the transition to nastiness. It just doesn't come off.
Michael Greer as an out-and-out faggot is right out of a cheap comedy and Zooey Hall as the heavy is good but physically wrong.
Everything -- but everything -- seems to happen right under the eyes of the guards. OK -- so many prison guards are venal, but I suspect that prisoners don't quite have the run of prisons as they do this one.
The movie was shot in Quebec Prison, which should have given it an authentic look. In this case, authenticity is only skin deep.