Ghosts… of the Civil Dead

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Ghosts… of the Civil Dead is a 1988 Australian dramasuspense film directed by John Hillcoat. The script was written by Hillcoat, Evan English, Gene Conkie, Nick Cave and Hugo Race. It is partly based on the true story of Jack Henry Abbott.

he story is set in Central Industrial Prison, a privately run maximum security prison in the middle of the Australian desert. An outbreak of violence within the prison has resulted in a total lockdown. A committee is appointed by the prison’s governors to investigate the cause of the outbreak, but their findings are in stark contrast to the facts behind the riot. As the viewers see, both the prisoners and the guards are slowly and deliberately brutalised, manipulated and provoked into the forthcoming eruption of violence, to justify the construction of a new and more “secure” facility.

The script was based on the book In the Belly of the Beast by Jack Henry Abbott and research done with David Hale, a former prison guard at Marion, Illinois. The film was shot at a disused aircraft factory in Melbourne[2] in October and November.[3]

Origin of title

In Roman law, a person convicted of a crime where the punishment included loss of their legal rights as a person was civiliter mortuus, a person without civil rights, a civil dead.


The spoken line “Welcome to Central Industrial. We are the future” has been sampled by Future Sound of London in their song Central Industrial on their Accelerator album;[4] also sampled by Woob in their song Void, Part One on the various artists album em:t 0094,[5] and by Jam and Spoon in their remix of Moby‘s Go.[6] Sonic Subjunkies samples various parts of the film in their songs Central Industrial and Central Industrial II: The Lockdown.