Just a minute or so of reality, which is about as much as a prison movie should have and still be entertaining.
This is from White Heat – 1949, James Cagney, the guy that became RR’s avatar, a mother fixation, robberies, air-holes, a prison escape, and, forever, ‘Top of the world, Ma.”
Three perfect moments in less than 2 minutes. 1. The ‘phone line’ gets the latest from home; 2. Crazy guy goes psycho in less than 3 seconds; 3. Everybody goes right back to eating as if nothing happened.
“White Heat” is also a cruelly vicious film and that its impact upon the emotions of the unstable or impressionable is incalculable. That is an observation which might fairly be borne in mind by those who would exercise caution in supporting such matter on the screen.For there is no blinking the obvious: the Warners have pulled all the stops in making this picture the acme of the gangster-prison film. They have crammed it with criminal complications—some of them old, some of them glittering new—pictured to technical perfection in a crisp documentary style.~ NY Times Review, Bosley Crowther, Sept. 3, 1949