Turning to Stone (TV Movie 1985) Poster

(1985 TV Movie)

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An overlooked female prison drama
filmsfan3826 July 2003
I thought Turning to Stone was a very good movie and its a shame that it was never released on video or DVD. Its better than a lot of movies that DO get released. Nicky Guadagni who played the main character did some wonderful acting. Also outstanding was Shirley Douglas who played the tough leader of some of the prisoners. Jackie Richardson was also very good. This movie ranks among the top dramas about female prison life though its not for the squeamish and in my view, can be a bit shocking at times. I can't understand why it never got to video or DVD. I can only think that maybe it wasn't released because it was a Canadian made movie with mostly Canadian actors,and doesn't have the exposure of most U.S. made movies. Its a loss to lots of people who like good acting. Too bad!

As of Aug.2008, I am still waiting and hoping this excellent movie will be released on DVD.

As of Dec.21,2011, I am still waiting and hoping this excellent movie will be released on DVD. I hope some film studio will release it. If the movie was better known, it would have been on DVD years ago. Very good acting.
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Truly outstanding, criminally neglected.
Oliver_Lenhardt24 April 2002
It is a disgrace that this supreme example of the Prison Film has been relegated to complete obscurity. Being that it's a Canadian made-for-TV production means that its drab, flat look will turn away many viewers immediately. That's a shame, because the film is riveting and disquieting from the very beginning, and eventually builds tension to a near fever pitch.

The film would be superb on its own, but what makes it absolutely unforgettable for me is the performance of Shirley Douglas as the "leader" of the prisoners. Without exaggeration, hers is simply the best piece of acting, male or female, that I've ever seen. Her confident swagger, bouffant curly hairdo atop a deeply-lined but exquisitely made-up face, deliciously menacing smile, and devilish eyebrows (easily supplanting Nicholson's patented brows), are only a facet of Douglas's remarkable, multi-layered performance. Those characteristics alone would have made her a superior, albeit one-note, villainess.

To the writer's credit, Douglas is given a couple of moments of introspection and sadness that are absolutely real. In a lesser film, these elements would be written and acted in a way to provoke tears and sympathy. Not so with TURNING TO STONE. What her revelations do is simply to humanize her. She is no less conniving and ruthless than before, but her monologues describing her pitiful childhood and yearning for a normal life on the outside with her son are stated dispassionately as facts. Without the respectability she has gained among her fellow prisoners through intimidation, she would have long since become a victim, she explains.

The bulk of the film's story revolves around an educated, innocent young woman (played by Nicky Guadagni), railroaded by a perfidious boyfriend to smuggle drugs in from Mexico. Sent to prison for seven years, this petite, frail intellectual is completely out of her element, and must somehow survive amidst the rivalries and sexual advances of other prisoners. She soon falls under the wing of Douglas's character who, of course, wants favors in return for her protection services. The tension builds to a curious, effective finale that is both pessimistic and upbeat.

The direction by Eric Till is expert but unobtrusive, and the ancillary performances are all without fault, but the real stand-outs in the film are the superlative script and extraordinary thespian Shirley Douglas.

A humble masterpiece.
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