An eager and idealistic young attorney defends an Alcatraz prisoner accused of murdering a fellow inmate. The extenuating circumstances: his client had just spent over three years in solitary confinement.
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Henri Young stole five dollars from a post office and ended up going to prison - to the most famous, or infamous, prison of them all: Alcatraz. He tried to escape, failed, and spent three years and two months in solitary confinement - in a dungeon, with no light, no heat and no toilet. Milton Glenn, the assistant warden, who was given free reign by his duty-shirking superior, was responsible for Young's treatment. Glenn even took a straight razor and hobbled Young for life. After three years and two months, Young was taken out of solitary confinement and put with the rest of the prisoners. Almost immediately, Young took a spoon and stabbed a fellow prisoner in the neck, killing him. Now, Young is on trial for murder, and if he's convicted he'll go to the gas chamber. An eager and idealistic young attorney, James Stamphill, is given this impossible case, and argues before a shocked courtroom that Young had a co-conspirator. The true murderer, he says, was Alcatraz. Written by
The warden in the film, James Humson, is based on Warden James A. Johnston, who served as warden of Alcatraz from 1934 to 1948. Far from being a befuddled bureaucrat, Warden Johnston was very much in charge during his tenure on Alcatraz. Johnston had previously served as warden of both San Quentin and Folsom Prisons prior to his appointment to Alcatraz, but he did not (as depicted in the film) serve as warden for all three prisons simultaneously. (This would have been impossible, because Alcatraz was a federal prison, and San Quentin and Folsom are both state prisons.) See more »
During the first meeting between Young and Stamphill in the open holding cell, the guard in the background disappears and reappears between shots. See more »
This film was excellent. Yes it's true that it wasn't as factually accurate as it could have been, but judged purely as a drama, it was film making at its best - superb acting, directing and cinematography. However, I would especially like to commend Christopher Young's amazing music score. It was haunting, beautiful and emotive, and contributed so much to the feel of the movie. Two scenes where the music was used to great effect: the tracking shot after Henri attacked the other prisoner, and the setting up of the court room then dissolving into an aerial shot of Alcatraz. Thank you to all concerned for making this great and moving picture - it makes me want to go and make movies!
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