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Enjoy this Course on Classic Prison Films

Do you love such films as Cool Hand Luke (1967), Shawshank Redemption (1994), or Dead Man Walking (1995)? Then you just might enjoy Irwin Novak and Mary Snell's winter course, "Prison Films!"


This OLLI course will be entirely online and will run from January 11 - February 14 from 12:45 - 2:45 p.m. This course is open to anyone who has paid dues with an MSCN associated senior college.


Course Description

Prison films seems like a weird subject, but prison movies run the gamut from macho escapism on steroids to carefully drawn character studies. Many of these films show the hard reality of prison life and explore the flaws of the prison system in our culture, and in other societies. Some are based on true stories; others are completely made up. But all circle around our centuries-old fascination with crime and punishment.


Since we are not meeting “live” in a room together we’ll have to watch the movies at home in preparation for our discussions. We’ll watch the six films on our own (free when they can be found or possibly using a for-pay service such as Vudu or Amazon Prime), then, hopefully, have lively and insightful discussions via ZOOM.


Film List

Six films will be chosen from these possibilities:

  • Kiss of the Spider Women - Director: Hector Babenco, Brazil & USA, 1985

  • Dead Man Walking - Director: Tim Robbins, USA, 1995

  • The Shawshank Redemption - Director: Frank Darabont USA, 1994

  • Birdman of Alcatraz Director: John Frankenheimer, USA, 1962

  • Midnight Express - Director: Alan Parker, USA, 1978

  • In the Name of the Father - Director: Jim Sheridan, UK & Ireland, 1994

  • The Hill - Director: Sidney Lumet, UK, 1965

  • Papillon - Director: Franklin J. Schaffner, UK and Ireland, 1973

  • Cool Hand Luke - Director: Frank Darabont, USA, 1967


To register

Please email olliatusm@maine.edu and provide the following information:

  • Full name

  • Phone number

  • Course title

  • Name of the Maine senior college you belong to

Someone from OLLI will call to register you. Email olliatusm@maine.edu or call 207-780-4406 if you have any questions.


Meet Your Instructors


Irwin Novak, PhD, is Emeritus Professor of Geology at USM and is an avid film buff. He coordinates the annual Greek film series for the Hellenic Society of Maine.


Mary Snell is a writer and dabbler in painting and photography. She has been teaching and taking OLLI classes for more than a decade. She’s never been to prison — and wants to keep it that way!


Both Irwin and Mary have taught USM International Summer programs on Lesvos in Greece for 20 years.

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