Escape from Alcatraz
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Escape from Alcatraz (1979)

Escape from Alcatraz
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Escape from Alcatraz tells the story of the only three men ever to escape from the infamous maximum security prison at Alcatraz. In 29 years, the seemingly impenetrable federal penitentiary, which housed Al Capone and "Birdman" Robert Stroud, was only broken once - by three men never heard of again.

Release Date:June 22, 1979
Runtime:
MPAA Rating:PG
Genres:Crime, Drama
Production Company:Paramount Pictures, Malpaso Company
Production Countries:United States of America
Director:Don Siegel, Lloyd Nelson, Luigi Alfano
Writers:,
Casts:, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Plot Keywords:prison, island, mouse, alcatraz, biography, prison warden, escapee convict, escape from prison, dummy, inmate, nude fight, 1960s, male pubic hair, based on book
  • Full of prison clichés but more of a reflection on prison life than a genre movie
    May 31, 2004
    When people disobey the rules of society they get sent to prison. When they disobey the rules of prison they get sent to Alcatraz. Transferred from Atlanta, this is the true story of Frank Morris – the only man to break out of Alcatraz prison. Morris comes to the prison to find cruel guards and monotony are the norm, all resided over by the disinterested warden. With time he makes both friends and enemies and begins to plan his way out of his cell and out of the prison.
    I have seen this film once before, probably more than a decade ago and I wasn't going to try and review it from my distant memory of it so I watched it again the other day. From my memory of the film and the opening 15 minutes I assumed that this was just going to be an effective break-out thriller with all the usual clichés in place – the shanks, the old man with a small animal, the old timer who goes nuts etc, and in some regards this is what it is. However it is also very unusual for a prison movie because it is so very low key and slow. In this way it is like the prison life itself – based in routine without a great deal actually happening, certainly the film engages consistently rather than relying on a handful of set pieces to do it. For this reason some viewers may be turned off by it as they expect more from prison dramas, certainly viewers of HBO's Oz cannot help but find this to be lacking in action.
    I don't want my comments to be taken out of context so I will say that I think that this is a very effective film in what it tries to do. It is slow but never dull, clichéd but never uninteresting. Siegel's direction shows good control and it is matched by a performance from Clint Eastwood that is so understated that at times it seemed like he would disappear from the screen with a slight whiff of smoke – this was not a showy performance but it was a very good one. He is supported by a cast that delivers mostly clichéd characters but delivers them without overdoing it or pushing it to the point where they are too obvious. The support cast includes turns from Blossum, Benjamin, Fischer, Hankin and Fred Ward. McGoohan doesn't have a great deal to do but he plays his character well, with a strange half smile on his face for much of the time – a knowing look reflecting the irony of the most famous Prisoner becoming the warden perhaps?
    Overall this is lacking in fireworks or big set pieces (even the escape at the end is delivered without dramatic flourishes or tense music) but that is it's aim. The film captures the dull routine of prison life including the violence and the treatment while also telling a good story that it has the good taste to leave open as it was in real life.