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
In real life, Henri Young's defense was handled by two prominent San Francisco attorneys, Sol A. Abrams and James Martin MacInnes. They offered the temporary insanity defense, saying that Young's brutal treatment on Alcatraz had led him to murder his fellow inmate, Rufus McCain. The jury bought the argument, and returned a verdict of Involuntary Manslaughter, largely because the Alcatraz officials who testified at Young's trial refused to provide any actual details of prisoner treatment at the prison to contradict Young's defense. (Alcatraz officials and guards lived under strict rules not to talk about prison procedures when off the island, for fear these details would make it into the newspapers and be used by criminals in breakout attempts.) See more »
The position of the spoon in Henri's hand changes while he's at the table just before murdering Rufus. See more »
A story of friendship and the tender mercies we all take for granted.
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.
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