Produced and Directed by Jamaa Fanaka
Michael J. Weldon writes in Psychotronic Video #4:
Leon Issac Kennedy (from Cleveland) starred in the original prison/boxing hit PENITENTIARY (1979) as Too Sweet, obviously inspired by Sugar Ray Leonard. PENITENTIARY II (82) co-starred Mr. T as the villain, but it was a weak sequel, and about the time it was released Kennedy was divorced from his wife, former Miss Ohio Jayne Kennedy (whose latest video release is BREAST FEEDING YOUR BABY). In #3, Kennedy (this time with a little ponytail) is back in jail after killing a man in the ring (it was a set up) All three in the series were directed by the unheralded Jamaa Fanaka. If you've ever seen his SOUL VENGEANCE (75), you know what he is capable of. PENITENTIARY III is one of the craziest, hard to believe exploitation movies in years. Former GENERAL HOSPITAL star Anthony Geary is Serengeti, a rich prisoner with white spikey hair and ear studs who never speaks above a whisper. He tells the warden what to do, has a French chef bring him dinner and enjoys manicures from his companion in drag (Jim Bailey, whose first screen credit was MONDO ROCCO). Geary, who just showed up in CRACK HOUSE with Jim Brown, deserves some kind of acting award. There's a lot of talk about "The Midnight Thud!". Two guards in protective suits and helmets are seen leading what sounds like a ferocious lion down the prison corridor. They've been ordered to set the dreaded Thud loose in Too Sweet's cage. The Thud is revealed to be a killer midget (The Haitian Kid). In a long fight sequence, the unstoppable little man uses martial arts leaps in the air, a lead pipe, and loud dubbed in howls and growls to frighten and beat up his victim. Later he's returned to a rat infested dungeon where he smokes crack and watches 16mm films! Then Too Sweet is thrown in the underground dungeon and given shock treatment. He babbles incoherently, but eventually recovers. He's scheduled to loose an organized prison fight to the big Hugo, but needs training. Suddenly the crazed Thud cleans up his act, dresses normal and talks (with what sounds like a Jamaican accent). He gives a lecture on the soul of a man, trains the proud Too Sweet (in slow motion) and proves that "It's amazing what a little self-respect can do for a man!" PENITENTIARY III is one of the wildest movies in recent memory and makes me hope for Part IV.