Jamaa Fanaka's gritty and idiosyncratic blend of blaxploitation, sports drama, and life-behind-bars thriller gets a third round on DVD in this release from Xenon Pictures. Penitentiary
has been given a letterboxed transfer to disc in the widescreen aspect ratio of 1.85:1; while the image hasn't been enhanced for 16 x 9 monitors, the new transfer is clean, well-detailed, and struck from better-looking source materials than the previous video release. The original monophonic audio has been preserved in a Dolby Digital Stereo track, which sounds about as good as the original materials would permit. Writer, director, and producer Fanaka contributes a commentary track as a bonus, and while there's a fair amount of dead air, he does offer some interesting background on how the film got made (he was still a student at UCLA when he shot the movie, and used some of the school's equipment and facilities during the production). Scratchy trailers for Penitentiary
and Penitentiary II
round out the package, which is a definite improvement over this movie's earlier incarnations on video.