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Home » Drama » Fortune and Men’s Eyes (1971)

image Fortune and Men’s Eyes (1971)

Director: Harvey Harth
Scenario: John Herbert
Genre: Drama
Country: Canada, USA
Year: 1971
Duration: 102 min
Rating: 6.5/10

Actors: Wendell Burton, Michael Greer, Zooey Hall, Danny Freedman, Larry Perkins, James Barron, Lázaro Pérez, Jon Granik, Tom Harvey, Hugh Webster, Kirk McColl, Vance Davis, Robert Goodier, Cathy Wiehl, Georges Allard


Fortune and Men’s Eyes (the odd title is taken from a Shakespeare sonnet) is a brave yet ultimately flawed depiction of male prison life. More a theatrical fable than a realistic exposé, Fortune depicts a nightmarish milieu where sex is the primary currency, guards uniformly turn a blind eye to egregious sexual abuse, and inmates are forced to choose their sexual “position” in a rigid hierarchy. In one particularly disturbing scene (which predates Deliverance), Mona (Freedman) is gang-raped during a meal — and while everyone in the room is aware of what’s happening, absolutely nothing is done to stop the situation. Instead, Rocky (Hall) turns the event into a chaotic free-for-all, pouring buckets of water gleefully from the balcony while incongruously cheerful music starts to play on the soundtrack; again, the guards do nothing. It’s a baffling scene to be sure.

Equally frustrating is the characterization of Rocky, who plays a pivotal role in the film: while Hall gives a decent performance, his character is so poorly written that it’s hard to understand his motivations. He could perhaps be seen as psychopathic in his vacillation between friendship with Burton and bullying domination, but this is never made clear. On the other hand, while some have argued that a character like Queenie (Greer gives a wonderfully vibrant performance) would never be able to hold such a high position in a male-dominated prison, I disagree: in an isolated world where sex is everything, a brash, self-confident man who willingly takes on the role of a woman (and flaunts his sexuality) may very well be able to thrive

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Fortune and Men’s Eyes (1971)

  • Runtime:102 minutes

  • Actors:
    Wendell Burton
    Michael Greer
    Zooey Hall
    Danny Freedman
    Larry Perkins
    Holy Face Peters
    James Barron
    Lázaro Pérez
    Sgt. Gritt
    Jon Granik
    Warden Gasher
    Tom Harvey
    Hugh Webster

  • Plot:

The young, naive Smitty is sent to prison for six months; Cathy, his girlfriend, watches as he disappears behind the bars and barbed wire. He’s assigned a cell with Queenie, a balls-out drag queen, Rocky, a quiet but cocky con, and Mona, a young gay man who ministers to Rocky. Smitty watches in horror as gangs of inmates brutalize prisoners who lack protection. Those who complain risk beatings or murder at the hands of unsympathetic guards: all cries are bootless. Mona offers poetry – Shakespeare’s sonnet XXIX; Queenie and Rocky offer Smitty advice, and Rocky offers protection for a price. Smitty’s choices and their consequences are the film’s main subjects.

Written by
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  • Also known as: Sob o Teto do Demônio (Brazil), Aux yeux du sort et des humains (Canada – French title), Fordærv bag tremmerne (Denmark), Los ojos de la cárcel (Spain), In disgrazia alla fortuna e agli occhi degli uomini (Italy), Av gud och människor övergivna (Sweden), Menschen hinter Gittern (West Germany),

  • Rating: (271 votes)

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