An Infallible Justice System at Work

At first, Cell 2455, Death Row aims to generate sympathy for its protagonist. As a young boy, Whit Whittier saw his mother paralyzed, his father attempt suicide, and his family fall to poverty. Whittier then turned to crime.

Cell 2455, Death Row then turns into a teen crime drama for the rebellious crowd, making Whittier look cool in a suit, holding a revolver as he walks directly toward the camera. He raids lovers lane, he robs mob bosses, and tussles with the law.

It’s corny now. William Campbell’s take on Whittier is pure teenage angst, taken to a comical extreme. Hard, maybe, for 1955. In 2019, the tough guy act and roving gangs of car thieves appear sedate. That’s arguably an indictment on society more than Cell 2455, Death Row, if also a knock on how hard this movie tried in reaching a maturing audience.

… there’s a simplistic ambiguity to the script

Whittier’s story is based on Caryl Chessman who at the time of release, legally represented himself while on the clock for execution. Appeals ran out (eventually) just not at the time of this movie’s release. As such, Cell 2455, Death Row needs a morally driven finish. Part of that comes as Whittier’s lawyer walks out, unwilling to defend someone with such a record. Then, the camera leaves Whittier looking out of a cell’s bars, contemplating how he spent his life and ended up in his circumstance.

He blames himself. It’s not a story looking for pity, rather personal responsibility. Fair, if also warming to the idea of incarceration. No question Whittier’s sexual crimes, violent actions, and thievery required punishment, but there’s a simplistic ambiguity to the script. Think a one-size-fits-all take, justifying its own use of glamorized screen violence (including a well shot car chase/shoot-out) with lightly written morals. This makes it too easy to ignore the social pressures/circumstances that breed criminality.

More for the bottom feature of a double bill, Cell 2455, Death Row does what it needs to. It feels right – there’s no sympathy for Whittier. Since few will likely remember Cell 2455, Death Row for anything else, ending on the obvious with no fear of an impressionable audience missing the intent. Sadly, they did – or do – miss the greater context of the prison system.


A reasonable presentation doesn’t shock or surprise with quality. Roughened grain hovers over the image, lacking nuance. In the shadows, banding rolls vertically. Pure black isn’t a priority, although gray scale manages dimension and depth. Or rather, enough to get by.

Even with two other films packed on the same disc inside this Noir Archive set, compression keeps grain organic. Mill Creek’s encoding doesn’t introduce new issues. With minimal damage, film elements appear in stable, clean condition.

Moderate fidelity highlights close-ups, with textured faces and exteriors of Los Angeles sharp enough to pick out detail. Classic car fans will appreciate the countless shots featuring various brands, pulling right up to the camera back when they were new. With what looks like a relatively recent scan of these film elements (an interpositive, most likely), those vehicles shine.


Way too loud in treble, this DTS-HD mix is a volume imbalanced challenge. Gunfire and shoot-outs come through decibels higher than dialog. It’s unusual for a mono track.

Otherwise, the criminality parable of Cell 2455, Death Row sounds fine. Not lush or special for something of this period, but defined with pleasing clarity and stable low-end.



Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

Cell 2455, Death Row
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A dated look at both teen crime and the prison system, Cell 2455, Death Row doesn’t offer much anymore, but as a time capsule, it’s fine.

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