In 1912, the notorious and violent prisoner Robert Franklin Stroud is transferred to the Leavenworth Prison convicted for murdering a man. When a guard cancels the visit of his mother Elizabeth Stroud due to a violation of the internal rules, he stabs and kills the guard and goes to trial three times. He is sentenced to be executed by the gallows, but his mother appeals to President Woodrow Wilson that commutes his sentence to life imprisonment. However, the warden Harvey Shoemaker decides to keep Stroud in the solitary for the rest of his life. One day, Stroud finds a sparrow that has fallen from the nest on the yard and he raises the bird until it is strong enough to fly. Stroud finds a motivation for his life raising and caring birds and becomes an expert in birds. He marries Stella Johnson and together they run a business, providing medicine developed by Stroud. But a few years after, Stroud is transferred to Alcatraz and has to leave his birds behind. Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Karl Malden (Leavenworth warden Harvey Shoemaker) introduces a new warden to the institution. He identifies one of the prisoners as "Sekulovich", Malden's own real name. See more »
In the last scene at the dock, while Stroud is talking to the reporters, the Alcatraz launch is seen leaving the dock and heading back toward the island. When Stroud then talks with Tom Gaddis, the launch can be seen over Stroud's shoulder, back at the dock again, and is again in the process of casting off. See more »
...during which you will see all of the man-made and natural beauties, the most spectacular bay in the world. You'll pass beneath the famous Golden Gate Bridge, considered by most authorities to be one of the most striking structures ever erected by man. From the bay, you will thrill to the magnificent San Francisco skyline. Your cruise ship, the Harbor King, will circle Alcatraz, a maximum security prison containing the most dangerous criminals in America. It has been the home of ...
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BURT LANCASTER seldom had a role that he connected with more than his portrait of an embittered man who must spend his life in prison after murdering a prison guard. His muted performance of this stoic man is under close scrutiny by the camera as he gradually redeems himself through a chance encounter with a fallen sparrow.
Everyone in the cast is superb--Karl Malden as a hard-nosed warden, Telly Savalas as a fellow prisoner, Betty Field as the widow who becomes close to Stroud through a mutual interest, and particularly Thelma Ritter as an over possessive mother. The refusal of a prison guard to permit Lancaster to see his mother is the catalyst that sends Stroud into solitary when the guard is fatally stabbed.
The scene where Stroud breaks down and actually apologizes to a prison guard (Neville Brand) is one of the most powerful moments in the film with Brand speaking up to the defiant prisoner who treats the guards with contempt.
All of the scenes showing Stroud taking care of his birds are startlingly realistic. Through brilliant black and white photography and a compelling script--and under the superior direction of John Frankenheimer--the film will move you to tears on more than one occasion and provides a vast range of emotions for the viewer. Burt Lancaster's finest achievement as an actor.
Interesting to note that only Burt Lancaster and Thelma Ritter were nominated for Oscars. Karl Malden and Neville Brand also deserved Oscar nominations--as did the film.
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