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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 »
I'm a realist, I don't believe in coincidence. Especially when it happens more than once.
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This is Westgate Penitentiary, the Warden is a weak man, the prison is practically run by the cruel and highly ambitious Captain Munsey. But the prisoners are no walk overs, they deal their own justice to those that don't tow the line, tired and fed up of mistreatment, and fuelled by the Munsey influenced suicide of a popular inmate, the prisoners, led by big Joe Collins, plot a break out, the fear of failure not even an option.
Brute Force is a cracking moody picture directed with innovation by Jules Dassin and starring Burt Lancaster (brilliant as Joe Collins), Hume Cronyn (Munsey), Charles Bickford (Gallagher) and lady support (shown in excellent flashbacks) from Yvonne De Carlo, Ann Blyth, Ella Raines and Anita Colby. We open in the pouring rain at the monolithic gates of Westgate Penitentiary, Dassin's camera looking up at the gate like some foreboding warning, William Daniels black and white photography is stark and making its point, all this as Miklos Rozsa's score thunders in our ears, it's clear that this is going to be a mean and moody prison picture.
So it proves to be, sure all the formula traits that lace most prison films are in here, but Dassin and his team have managed to harness an oppressive feel to put us the viewer within the walls of Westgate as well. This is a bleak place, there are six men to a prison cell, their only chance of staying sane is memories of loved ones and a unified spirit to not be put upon by the vile Munsey, we are privy to everything, we ourselves are part of the furniture. Brute Force thankfully doesn't disappoint with its ending, the tension has been built up perfectly, the mood is set, so when the ending comes it's explosive and a truly fitting finale to what has been a first rate prison melodrama. 9/10
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