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In the 29 years of Alcatraz's existence, and despite the strict
measures, 39 captives tried to escape from America's premier
maximum-security prison during its existence... Thirty six of whom
failed... This script is about the other three, of whom nothing is
known... They may have drowned in San Francisco Bay, or they may have
Morris (Clint Eastwood) was a loner, a rebel against society, the perfect hero that Siegel loves... Lee Marvin in 'The Killers', Steve McQueen in 'Hell is for Heroes', and Richard Widmark in 'Madigan' were all similar types in films which he had directed..
In 'Escape From Alcatraz,' Eastwood gives his best screen acting to date... It is a charismatic performance that is so idiosyncratic, persuasive, and powerful... Eastwood, gave Morris the rough, intelligent aspect that is immediately palpable...
The first few minutes of the film consist of Morris being brought by boat to Alcatraz, inspected by a doctor and thrown into a cell... Throughout this, Eastwood does not speak... But already the audience feels it... They know the character... He has been through this before... He tries to control his mind... He builds a barrier between himself and his surroundings... He holds back his fear but he's not so foolish as to appear brave... Behind his impassivity, his mind is calculating... He is studying everyone... Everyone knows, prison guards and fellow prisoners alike, that this is not a man to be intimidated with easily...
But Siegel wasn't making a film about penal cruelty or miscarriage of justice or anything like that... He was presenting a meditative study of the inflexibility of human spirit, with a star strong enough in himself to join one sequence to the next... Both Siegel and Eastwood are known for violence, but there's relatively little of it this time...
This is not to say that Siegel has no interest in character... Stereotype characters, such as Doc and Litmus, make the film more entertaining... A further example is the inevitable homosexual Wolf (Bruce M. Fisher), who points out that Morris is a potential victim but realizes he has met his match when he approaches him in the showers one morning and gets three unexpected blows in the groin and a bar of soap in the mouth for his harassment... Another familiar type of character is English (Paul Benjamin), the leader of the Black mafia, who sits in the yard far away from the white inmates... English proves to be a nice guy..
But the biggest stereotype of them all is the cold warden, although Patrick McGoohan tries as hard as he can to provide Morris with some individual personality... Apart from the flower-crushing and constant attention to his nails, he is permitted by the scriptwriter merely to recite phrases that might have come from the prison handbook: 'No one has ever escaped from Alcatraz alive. Alcatraz was built to keep all the rotten eggs in one basket. I was specially chosen to make sure the stink from that basket doesn't escape.'
But two elements in the film are absolutely real: one is the central character, which will be considered in a moment, and the other is 'The Rock' itself...
Siegel's overwhelming achievement is to send the audience to infamous prison for two hours... The claustrophobia, the implicit suppression of any joy, the barbarity of being caged in isolation cells, all these suffocating atrocities come across with such reality that one experiences a total sense of relief when the camera moves into the recreation yard for the clear bright light of every early morning... Siegel's technique in this respect is unique...
Siegel's film style seems almost a cinematic interpretation of Eastwood screen persona: lean, clean, and harsh... Here is one example: When the incorrigible psychopath is out to finish Eastwood, his one chance is in the exercise yard... When he enters the yard, he is in need for a weapon... He has none! He slowly advances into the yard toward his victim... The camera goes down to the man's right hand as he walks... After a moment, another man puts a knife in that hand... The camera stays on the hand as he keeps moving... After another moment, another hand reaches in and grabs the con's arm.... The whole brief sequence is loaded with surprise and suspense... It is in two words: pure cinema...
Siegel's movie follows the known facts of the escape constantly, permitting itself only one act of poetic license at the very end... Throughout the film, Siegel uses a yellow chrysanthemum as a symbol of 'heart', to indicate that although the brutal system may have removed everything from the inmates save the questionable privilege of remaining alive, in some men at least their spirit survives...
'Doc', an elderly inmate who has spent twenty years there but who is permitted to paint and cultivate chrysanthemums, introduces the concept...
Some people complain that this movie is "boring." It's true it is very
quiet and low-key, but this isn't necessarily a bad thing. It has a
distinct realistic feel to it, and it manages to be extremely
suspenseful without using over-the-top action or an overblown
soundtrack. There were several moments that actually had me on the edge
of my seat.
Fans of Eastwood and McGoohan, who both give fantastic performances, should love this. Fans of prison movies should love this. Fans of suspense movies in general should love this. It is a top-notch movie with good performances all around, and I'd highly recommend it.
10/10 stars. Pure, solid entertainment.
And Escape from Alcatraz is a great movie. Based on a true story, it's
one of those rare films that doesn't contain endless mindless fight
scenes, overt homo eroticism, impossible action scenes, cartoon like
special effects that film makers seem to be overly obsessed about these
days. Somebody on the board asked if they should do a re-make of the
film. NO!!!! Escape from Alcatraz is excellent as it is. The film is
all suspense and great acting. The prison scenes realistic. I'd been to
Alcatraz before (as a tourist) and a lot of it is in ruins but the film
makes it look like the prison is still intact.
I know some people may find the film dull, well that's fine. Go elsewhere and watch your cartoon action films. I'll stick with cool films like Escape from Alcatraz.
Alcatraz was America's toughest high-security prison, and has been much beloved by film-makers since it closed and became available as a set. Don Siegel's film is based on the true story of an attempted escape. Some aspects are clichéd (the psychopathic homosexual, for example) and by concentrating on the brutality of the regime the film gets you on the side of the escapees at the price of suggesting that prison break-outs are actually a good thing. But in general, this is a successful film that has aged well, with no sickly sentiment or overdone melodrama; by concentrating on the unadorned details of the story, the film allows each one to count. A strong, uncompromising movie, gripping even if you know the ending before it starts.
I first went on the evening tour of Alcatraz Island which I'd highly
recommend, the prison was cast in a dark gloom which seemed appropriate
as we walked around the jail cells and listened to many interesting
facts on the audio tour, walked the grounds, and heard about the escape
depicted in the move. Naturally, I had to go see this movie...
Watching the movie, I was very impressed with how accurate the movie mirrored what my sense of prison life and the escape would be like based on my impressions of the prison and the island during the tour. Having had walked around the space of the prison in the dim evening light really enhanced my sense of the movie's environment.
Small details like the painting of black shadows for sharp tools that they shared in the tour were also present in the movie, very authentic. The lack of action per se perfectly captures the actual mood of the prison, where boredom reigned, and I thought the film balanced this well with an entertaining cast of characters and well-timed action. Eastwood's silently intense attitude was a good fit for the role and the drama and atmosphere of the escape scene was done perfectly.
In short, I'd highly recommend the evening tour on Alcatraz, followed by a viewing of "Escape from Alcatraz", you will not be disappointed.
An excellent second half of this film elevates it overall as the
Alcatraz inmates plan and then execute their escape, narrowly missing
several disastrous occurrences. The suspense during those scenes is
Clint Eastwood is good as the fairly low-key character "Frank Morris" and most of the inmates are likable guys (which was highly unlikely in real life).
For tourists of San Francisco (of which I was one about five years ago), I would recommend taking the Alcatraz tour. It's fascinating and makes this movie even more interesting once you've seen the place. I notice the people here at IMDb make the same recommendation on the title page of this film.
Much of the rest of the cast are not well-known actors but they do a fine job in here. This is one of director Don Siegel's final films. He worked with Eastwood on "Coogan's Bluff" and then "Dirty Harry."
Transfer-wise, the DVD was not that impressive, a bit too grainy for the usual standards. However, the story is always interesting and the movie is definitely recommended.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I guess everybody must have heard of this movie before. If not, than
they must certainly have heard of the story that has served as the
basis for it. This movie is the dramatization of what probably the only
successful attempt was to escape from the prison island called
Alcatraz. This prison was thought to be the safest ever, but as some
inmates proved: there is absolutely no prison in the world you can't
escape from! This is one of those classic movies that I can watch time
after time and never get bored by it. I love the sense of detail and
accuracy, the excellent performances by the actors, the story, the
feeling that you are inside that prison as well... You know these
people are criminals, but you can't help it to support them, hoping
that they will make it on their way out of there, outsmarting all the
guards and the prison warden.
Like I already said, this is a classic that I can watch time after time, and so I have. I've probably already seen it 5 times, perhaps even more. That's also why I'm so surprised to see that so little people have voted for this movie on this website. But it doesn't matter. I know that I loved it and that's why I give it an 8/10
For some just the name of this prison gives excitement. 'The Rock' as they call it was the most famous prison around in that time and still is today. This is my favorite Clint Eastwood movies and is in my top-20 of all time. It is kind of a thriller in a way. The constant chance of Morris (Eastwood) getting caught was an edge-of-your-seat kind of feeling. The fact that they actually filmed the movie on Alcatraz Island was amazing. Alot of movies have not been able to actually film in the places where they have actually taken place. If you haven't seen this one yet, I suggest you go and rent it. I got lucky enough to get it on tape a while back for 5 bucks.
If there was ever an inmate who was destined to escape from Alcatraz,
it was Frank Lee Morris. In the movie entitled "Escape from Alcatraz"
starring actor Clint Eastwood, Morris was accurately portrayed as the
keen and brilliant mastermind of one of the most famous prison escapes
in history. The escape plan took nearly seven months to design, and it
would necessitate the fabrication of clever decoys and water survival
F L Morris had spent a lifetime navigating the prison system before his arrival on Alcatraz. From his infant years until his teens Morris was shuffled from one foster home to another, and he was convicted of his first crime at the youthful age of only thirteen. By the time he reached his later teens, Morris' criminal record would include a multitude of crimes ranging from narcotics possession to armed robbery, and he had become a professional inhabitant of the correctional system. He spent his formative years in a boys' training school, and then graduated.
Morris was credited by prison officials as possessing superior intelligence, and he earned his ticket to Alcatraz by building an impressive resume of escapes.
Frank's accomplices in the "Great Escape" were equally well acquainted with the dark world of organized crime. Brothers John and Clarence Anglin were also serving sentences at Alcatraz for bank robbery, having been convicted along with their brother Alfred. All three had been incarcerated at the Federal Penitentiary in Atlanta when they first became acquainted with Morris, and John and Clarence were eventually sent to Alcatraz following a sequence of attempted escapes.
i wud love to explain in detail but then....
After months of long preparation the inmates had completed fashioning all of the gear they needed for their escape, This what Clint had really shown his acting by the Direction of Siegel! I love the entire detail structure of the movie and wud be on my favo's...i have almost watched it more than 15times!!and Will do too...
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Star Clint Eastwood and director Don Siegel made some excellent films
together in the '70s. Their final collaboration came in 1979 with
Escape From Alcatraz, a very authentic-looking prison drama based on
the true story of the only successful escape from the notorious
island-prison off San Francisco. In reality, no-one can be sure that
Frank Morris and the Anglin brothers DID actually get away.... there is
a very real possibility that they drowned or suffered hypothermia while
trying to swim to safety. But the bodies of Morris and his cronies were
never recovered, so neither can anyone categorically state that they
perished. As a result of this legendary escape, Alcatraz lost its
reputation as an inescapable penitentiary and was closed down just over
a year later.
Convicted bank robber Frank Morris (Clint Eastwood) is moved to Alcatraz after repeatedly attempting to escape from his previous jail. Here he finds himself at the mercy of a ruthless and power-hungry warden (Patrick McGoohan) whose attitude toward the prisoners is one of utter contempt. Frank also finds his new fellow inmates to be alternately hostile or hopeless. While some inmates spend their time bullying and intimidating, others wallow in despair as endless months pass them by. Among the desperate ones, Frank meets "Doc" Dalton (Roberts Blossom), a convict with a talent for painting who chops off his own fingers when the warden refuses to let him paint. Also, Frank meets the Anglin brothers - Clarence (Jack Thibeau) and John (Fred Ward) - another pair with a reputation for attempting to escape from the jails they have been in. Frank and the Anglins put into action an audacious new escape plan. Using stolen spoons they dig their way to a ventilation shaft; using mirrors they watch the corridors outside their cells for approaching guards; using makeshift mortar they hide their digging work; and using papier-mache they make lifelike heads which they place on their pillows to make it look like they are sleeping peacefully.
Escape From Alcatraz is a film of great tension and gritty authenticity. Although Morris and the Anglins are bad men doing time for their bad crimes, we are made to root for them because the warden - indeed the whole "system" - is shown to be so cruel and unforgiving. Eastwood is physically commanding in his taciturn role, while McGoohan gives a chilling performance as the warden, and Blossom elicits great sympathy as the prisoner who harbours no desire to cause trouble but is devastated when banned from doing his beloved paintings. The whole prison atmosphere - with its tedium, fear, isolation and desperation - is evoked very realistically. The escape itself is shown in a sequence of 30 minutes or so at the end of the film. It is a mark of how well made Escape From Alcatraz is that this final 30 minute stretch takes place in near-darkness and is almost wordless, yet remains completely gripping.
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