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At overcrowded Westgate Penitentiary, where violence and fear are the norm and the warden has less power than guards and leading prisoners, the least contented prisoner is tough, single-minded Joe Collins. Most of all, Joe hates chief guard Captain Munsey, a petty dictator who glories in absolute power. After one infraction too many, Joe and his cell-mates are put on the dreaded drain pipe detail; prompting an escape scheme that has every chance of turning into a bloodbath. Written by
Rod Crawford <firstname.lastname@example.org>
When the Group Theater (1931-1940)--the first American acting company to attempt to put the Russian Konstantin Stanislavski's principles into action--disbanded, many of the actors who had participated in its revolutionary realistic productions on Broadway ("Awake and Sing" "Waiting for Lefty") made their way to Hollywood in search of work. Two of them--Roman Bohnen ("Warden") and Art Smith ("Dr. Walters")can be seen in this film. As several of the actors in The Group were members of the Communist Party or leftist organizations, they would soon be blacklisted during the "Red Scare" era of Sen. Joseph McCarthy's search for "subversives" in the entertainment industry, one of whom was the director of this film, Jules Dassin. A year before this film was released, Kazan--who had appeared before the McCarthyite House Unamerican Activities Committee and "named names", happened to be in Hollywood and saw a production of one of Tennessee Williams's early plays, "Portrait of a Madonna" directed by Hume Cronyn--who plays the sadistic Capt. Munsey in this film. Kazan was so impressed by the work of Cronyn's wife, Jessica Tandy, that he offered her the role of Blanche Dubois in his Broadway production of "A Streetcar Named Desire." See more »
When Munsey talks to Gallagher in the dining hall, the position of the hands of Jackson (the guard standing behind) change between shots. In the longer shot he is holding the baton with his hands on top of the baton; in the closer shot, his right hand is still on top and his left hand holds the baton from underneath. See more »
[Spencer is wavering about whether to join in with Joe's escape plan]
Spencer. In or out? No guarantees go with this break. It's all or nothing. But you've gotta' make up your mind now. Now! Either way, no hard feelings.
[after long, thoughtful pause]
With you, Joe. I'll play along.
Robert 'Soldier' Becker:
I never thought different.
Neither did I.
See more »
Burt Lancaster and cellmates plot a daring breakout. Okay, sounds like a thousand other prison movies, but what makes this the top of the prison genre are the elements. Watching the characters in this gem is like staring down a cobra- they're so fascinating. There are the unique cellmates: meak accountant Whit Bissell driven over the edge, a learned, elder prisoner (Charles Bickford) the tough Burt Lancaster, etc. etc. Most memorable is Hume Cronyn (his greatest film performance) as the soft spoken, neat-nick psychotic Captain Munsey, a prison official who takes so much delight in beating prisoners, he plays his favorite music and strips to his t-shirt during beatings! Grand screenwriting by future director Richard Brooks. Cellmates have only one wall decoration, a picture of a glamour girl. She reminds each cellmate of a different woman who caused them to do time. The dialog crackles loudly: (Sample- Bickford to Lancaster about a cellmate plotting a break: "He said next Tuesday is the day of the break. He's been saying that about every Tuesday for the last twelve years. Twelve years from now, he'll be saying the same thing....") Hey Universal, put this wonderful classic on VHS!
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