A few short hours after President Lincoln has been assassinated, Dr. Samuel Mudd gives medical treatment to a wounded man who shows up at his door. Mudd has no idea that the president is dead and that he is treating his murderer, John Wilkes Booth. But that doesn't save him when the army posse searching for Booth finds evidence that Booth has been to the doctor's house. Dr. Mudd is arrested for complicity and sentenced to life imprisonment, to be served in the infamous pestilence-ridden Dry Tortugas.Written by
The name Shark Island is never used in the movie after the credits. The movie correctly depicts Dr. Mudd as being imprisoned on the island Dry Tortugas. See more »
Booth and his accomplice, David Herold, are seen riding away from Ford's Theater together, through the streets of Washington. In reality, Booth rode alone through Washington, and did not join up with with Herold until many miles outside the city. See more »
Since this film has never been released to the video market in the USA, the only version available for home entertainment is an Argentinean VHS edition that was lifted from a 16mm print. Although the film plays in English with Spanish language subtitles, the credits and all signs and letters shown in the picture were redone in Spanish. The name of this version is "Prisionero del destino". See more »
I recently thought I would treat myself to a John Ford retrospective by viewing all the films of his in my collection (some 32) in chronological order. I was surprised at how little my rating of them had changed over the years, with the sole exception of "The Horse Soldiers" which seems to get better and better. I think my all-time favourites will always be "How Green was my Valley" and "The Quiet Man", while time can do nothing to redeem the sheer awfulness of "What Price Glory?" However, what really did surprise me about one of the most uneven of the great directors, was the tremendous visual flair of his films of the '30s. True there were some potboilers such as "Wee Willie Winkie" and "Submarine Patrol", but the period contains a Western, "Drums Along the Mohawk", that is right up there with the finest, "The Searchers" and "The Horse Soldiers", "The Hurricane", arguably the finest disaster movie of all time and "The Prisoner of Shark Island", a fascinating story of wrongful imprisonment. The latter is based on the true story of a country doctor who had the misfortune to treat the assassin of Abraham Lincoln during his flight, an action that prompted his arrest and incarceration in a prison island off the Florida coast. Anyone wishing to study action film montage at its most skilful need look no further than the first half-hour of "Prisoner". The reconstruction of the theatre assassination, Booth's flight, his encounter with Dr Mudd, Mudd's arrest and trial are shot with a breathtaking urgency of pace. If the last two-thirds seem a little conventional beside the whirlwind opening, this is partly due to the fact that the genre of prison drama with attempted escapes has become something of a cinema commonplace. It should not cloud the issue that this comparatively early example is still one of the best. Nevertheless the film is not without faults that largely arise from genre expectations of the period. John Carradine hams it all the way as a prison office oozing malevolence, Mudd's daughter is a Shirley Temple lookalike, simperingly coy and cosy and all the darkies, although thoroughly nice and obvious goodies in a troubled world, are portrayed as if they hardly possess a brain between them. Still, this is the sort of tosh it is wise to overlook in order to fully appreciate films as wonderfully crafted as this.
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