Henri "Papillon" Charierre is sentenced to life in prison and transported to the penal in French Guyana. Aboard ship on the voyage over, he meets Louis Dega, a forger. They form a bond that will last them a great many years. The conditions at the penal colony are horrific and Papillon desperately wants to escape. His first attempt ends quickly in failure and as a result he spends 2 years in solitary confinement. His next attempt is somewhat more successful and he actually spends a idyllic time with a tribe of Central America Indians. Once caught however, he does 5 years in solitary confinement. Once released, he decides to make one final attempt at freedom. Written by
The cave sequences were filmed below on the cliffs of Negril, Jamaica where the Xtabi Hotel is now located. See more »
The guillotine permanently erected in the prison courtyard is a piece of pure Hollywood. By the 1870s the French had developed demountable guillotines that could be easily transported and set up in the town square wherever an execution was to take place, taking only an hour or so to assemble and dis-assemble. There is ample evidence that the 'bagne' (Caribbean penal colony) had one of these, which would have only been brought out of storage when needed. Had it been left permanently exposed to the tropical sun and rain, its timbers would have very rapidly deteriorated and warped to render it unusable. See more »
Although media promotion hinted that this was another version of "The Great Escape", the movie, and Steve McQueen, avoided what would have been a fatal pratfall - remaking the 1962 POW war film with different costumes.
In fact, this was an excellent film that stood on its own merit(despite the fact that historians claim the story is not true) It was an excellent depiction of the French penal colony in Guana. It would have been great even without McQueen in the title role.
Dustin Hoffman was his usual superb actor, making the most out of his role. McQueen wisely avoided playing himself, and as a result, his role was stronger and believable.
Location scenes and overall plot were superb.
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