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PENTRIDGE: SOME GHOSTS & MEMORIES FROM THE BIG HOUSE

Australia, 2000 (MIFF 2001, Australian Showcase )

Director: Catherine Birmingham

Mark Chopper' Read ran a racket in Pentridge whereby he sold people their left leg. Pay up, and you get to keep it! Chopper joins author Ray Mooney {Everynight, Everynight, MIFF 1994) and a collection of former guards, governors and cons in this extremely colourful recollection of Australia's most notorious prison. Mooney conducts an insider's tour of the now silent lock-up; his remembrances of the over­crowding, poor treatment and rigid discipline in a cold stone compound surrounded by razor wire are chilling.

Accounts of riots and escapes are interspersed with plenty of the black humour that pervaded the jailhouse-such as Chopper pointing out that the reason why he supervised while others dug escape tunnels was because he was 'management' and not 'labour'! Indeed this notorious villain steals the show, speaking frankly of the pivotal incidents during his 17 years inside; yarns like Rusty Bliss and his Vegemite home-brew; his 'I Love Ita Buttrose' buttock tattoo and the macabre ear loppings that lead to the formation of the 'Van Gogh Gang'. Behind the humour this superb documentary gives a clear picture of the unique camaraderie shared by those behind bars.

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