The denizens of a sordid brothel become embroiled in a bloody coup in this arty political satire adapted from the Jean Genet play. Shelley Winters stars as the cathouse's madam, a stern woman who supervises the fantasy role-playing of her beautiful employees and their well-heeled customers, including the local police chief (Peter Falk).
As various whores and their johns dress up like judges, penitents, bishops, and generals, a revolution rages outside in the streets. The leaders of society -- including the queen -- are done away with by an angry mob. Soon, the madam and her compatriots find themselves ordered to impersonate the slain bigwigs in order to restore law and order.
Shot in black-and-white by cinematographer George Folsey and producer/director Joseph Strick, The Balcony features a number of future stars in its cast, from Ruby Dee and Lee Grant to Leonard Nimoy. Nimoy would go on to produce and star in Deathwatch, another Genet adaptation.
Unlike the later film, Genet was actually involved in the film version of The Balcony, collaborating with Strick on the original treatment but leaving the final screenplay to poet and novelist Ben Maddow. Strick acquired the rights to The Balcony from Genet only after failing to mount another literary adaptation, of James Joyce's Ulysses.