Murder in the First (1995)

R  |   |  Drama, Thriller  |  20 January 1995 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.3/10 from 20,788 users  
Reviews: 109 user | 39 critic

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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2 wins & 2 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Mary McCasslin
D.A. William McNeil
Mr. Henkin
Byron Stamphill
Adult Rosetta Young
Ben Slack ...
Jerry Hoolihan
Warden James Humson
Blanche, Hooker
Alex Bookston ...
Alcatraz Doc (as Alexander Bookston)
Richie Allan ...
Jury Foreman
Herb Ritts ...
Mike Kelly


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 J. Spurlin

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


"I accuse Alcatraz of crimes against humanity." - The lawyer "I was a weapon, but I ain't no killer." - The accused "I am not on trial here." - The warden See more »


Drama | Thriller

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for strong images of prison brutalities, sexuality and language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:






Release Date:

20 January 1995 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Alcatraz - kohtaloni  »

Box Office


£804,934 (UK) (15 December 1995)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Because the producers wanted authenticity, the films co-stars, Christian Slater, Kevin Bacon and Gary Oldman spent some of their free time locked inside jail cells as production commenced. See more »


All of the street cars aren't running on tracks as they are in fact trucks as the tires can easily be seen from several different angles. See more »


[first lines]
Prison Barber: They're coming! Run!
See more »

Crazy Credits

This Film is Inspired by a True Story See more »


Spoofed in Austin Powers in Goldmember (2002) See more »


God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen!
Traditional English Christmas, earliest known publication 1833
Sung by Alcatraz wives and children
See more »

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User Reviews

A story of friendship and the tender mercies we all take for granted.
6 March 1999 | by (Mesa, AZ) – See all my reviews

This appears to be a prison movie about the injustices inflicted upon a hapless inmate named Henri Young. In reflection it is actually about friendship and the every day things we take for granted. At the heart of this movie, Kevin Bacon's character, Young, asks Christian Slater's character, Stamphill, if they were on the outside, would they be friends? He answers without much thought, yes, of course. Then Bacon says, I could've been like you. He sees in this young attorney, his own life & what it might have been if not for $5. He asks Slater, did you ever steal $5? Of course he had, from his brother, who told him never to do it again. Henri Young's punishment was to go to a federal penitentiary where upon trying to escape, he was "sentenced" or left to die, for 3 long years in solitary confinement. Young's character has never been with a woman and he's 28 years old. In a very moving scene (wisely done without music, although the music in this movie is beautiful) Stamphill brings a woman into the cell in an attempt to give him a few moments as a man. Unfortuantely, he cannot even bring himself to enjoy this - the look on his face will absolutely make you break down and cry. The performances by everyone are terrific. Contrary to previous reviewers, there is nothing wrong with Slater's performance. Thankfully, it is understated as it should be. Also, it should be rather obvious, that with a role this meaty & important, Bacon's outstanding performance is likely to make any other actor in the same scene, seem less of an accomplishment. This is definately Kevin Bacon's most important role and should have garnered an Oscar nomination. This is a not to be missed movie- and wouldn't you know it, it's based on a true story. In the end, it's about a triumph of the human spirit. I was lucky enough to see this at the theater when it first came out- you're lucky because it's available on video- go rent it tonight if you're interested in a good story.

16 of 19 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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