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With: Patrick Boland, Kent Foreman, Carmen Argenziano, Luke Johnson, Katherine Quittner, Scott Turner
Written by: Peter Watkins
Directed by: Peter Watkins
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 88
Date: 03/18/2013
IMDB

Punishment Park (1971)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Law vs. Freedom

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Peter Watkins' exceedingly grim, but frighteningly relevant 1971 film is a fictitious story of a fascist America in which liberal activists are arrested and punished. A kind of tribunal gives them a hearing, but each request and every reference to the Constitution are flatly denied. Their choice: go to prison or survive three days in a "punishment park." Once there, prisoners have three days in which to cross the blazing Los Angeles desert to reach an American flag. Watkins (The War Game, Edvard Munch) juxtaposes these sequences with yet another trial so we can understand the inner workings of these "camps." Apparently, the aim is to do away with the dissidents while also training cops to deal with future radicals. Watkins doesn't bother to establish any clear-cut heroes or villains, making the naked message behind Punishment Park all the more cutting.

DVD Details: It's hard enough to watch as it is, but popping on the DVD for an evening's entertainment is asking quite a lot. Nevertheless, New Yorker has put together an excellent DVD here, with a 28-minute filmed introduction by the director, a commentary track and liner notes by Joseph A. Gomez (author of a 1979 book on Watkins), an essay by critic Scott MacDonald, a short film, The Forgotten Faces (1961), the original press kit and a Watkins filmography.