Production Company – Imperative Entertainment
This is yet another recommendation from a friend, thanks Matt (you were right!) I managed to get through this whole thing in two days. It would have been a whole lot less. With the current shenanigans in Westminster though, I’m spending almost as much time listening to political commentary as I am listening to podcasts. But I digress….
So what’s it about?
In 1974 the Huntsville Prison in Texas was the home of cocaine and heroin kingpin Federico Gomez Carrasco. After a dramatic shootout at a small town motel (following on from a previous prison break), he was incarcerated and sentenced. This was something that Carrasco was not prepared to accept however. With the help of some accomplices, he prepared once more to escape.
The group of inmates took hostages and holed up in the impenetrable prison library. Over the next 11 days Carrasco and the prison authorities negotiated for Carrasco to flee the country in an armoured car. Needless to say, despite Carrasco’s gang taking all eventualities into account, A1 things didn’t go according to plan.
Is it any good?
Absolutely. I’m becoming quite a fan of true crime podcasts, and this one really has a twist. Most series you hear will be told from the perspective of hindsight. The parties concerned will tell their stories in the usual fashion. What sets this apart from the rest though, is the sheer amount of recorded footage from the actual event. Carrasco allowed the hostages to use the phone to speak to their families, and he was on the phone to his attorney and the prison officials, and everything was recorded.
When being told a story, there is usually a disconnect from the raw emotion. Time, as they say, is a great healer. These events are no doubt still harrowing to recall, but the people concerned have no doubt told their stories many times and it shows (or whatever the audio equivalent of that is). The fact that a great portion of this is actual footage from the time really adds an emotional weight to the story. Most of the time they make small talk with their families and make plans for when this is over. The producers don’t shy away from playing the calls that truly convey the terror of the situation though. This is the unique thing about this series.
Federico Carrasco has become something of a folk hero apparently. There are stories here that will give him a kind of Robin Hood mystique. There are even parts of this series when you almost root for the plucky little Mexican, standing up to The Man™. As the series progresses though, these moments are fewer and fewer. Ultimately you accept he was a killer, and he wasn’t fussy about who he killed.
The episodes are broken up with Mexican “corrido’s” (see i didn’t spell the title wrong!). Theae are folk ballads from the time telling Carrasco’s story. They are plaintive and solemn, and I know just enough Spanish to get the gist of the lyrics, although they are explained by the narrator. These songs were being released almost daily as the siege went on, not to glamorise the events (although they certainly do), but more as a “news update” for the cantinas and Spanish radio stations. The musicians would listen to the news, write and record the songs and broadcast them. The more popular ones would get pressed to vinyl and released to the bars for their jukeboxes.
I can’t recommend this series enough really. It was compelling and heartbreaking in almost equal measure. It’s 10 episodes that you’ll fly through in no time.
As I said previously there is always a part of society that will glamorise the criminal. They add some romance to the crimes, whilst glossing over the gorier elements of their past. There is not much chance of that here though. By the end the events have taken a very dark turn indeed, and there is no way you’ll forget the events of the final night.
You can get Standoff here:
Or wherever you get your podcasts.