The Steel Cage ★★

Unfortunately a great cast can’t rescue this tedious anthology of three prison stories, all narrated by San Quentin Warden Clinton Duffy (Paul Kelly). In the first, Louis (Walter Slezak), the prison’s chef, is granted parole in order to take a job at a posh restaurant. Louis, however, has a volatile temper, and we believe he’s going to be back in the joint soon. What we can’t believe is the number of coincidences and convoluted details we’re forced to swallow (no pun intended) during the segment.

The second episode promises greatness with four prisoners (Lawrence Tierney, John Ireland, Charles Nolte, Lyle Talbot) attempting a jailbreak, but their different ideas about details and hostages negotiations could spell disaster for their plan.

The final segment is the most unusual and the most effective of the three. The new prison chaplain, Father Harvey (Arthur Franz) discovers the mural of "The Last Supper" has suffered damage from rusty water pipes. A prisoner named Steinberg (Kenneth Tobey) - who was an accomplished artist before he decided to murder his wife and her lover - decides to help restore the painting. Yet Steinberg knows that working on the project may allow him to accomplish another idea he’s been working on. After all, Steinberg confesses to Father Harvey early in the segment, “I’ve enjoyed sins you’ve never dreamed of.”

Fans of prison flicks and the aforementioned actors (as well as cinematographers John Alton and Joseph Biroc) may want to seek this one out, but otherwise, you can skip it.