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Brute Force (1947)

Passed | | Crime, Drama, Film-Noir | August 1947 (USA)
Trailer
2:14 | Trailer
At a tough penitentiary, prisoner Joe Collins plans to rebel against Captain Munsey, the power-mad chief guard.

Director:

Jules Dassin

Writers:

Richard Brooks (screenplay), Robert Patterson (story)

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Burt Lancaster ... Joe Collins
Hume Cronyn ... Capt. Munsey
Charles Bickford ... Gallagher
Yvonne De Carlo ... Gina Ferrara
Ann Blyth ... Ruth
Ella Raines ... Cora Lister
Anita Colby ... Flossie
Sam Levene ... Louie Miller
Jeff Corey ... 'Freshman' Stack
John Hoyt ... Spencer
Jack Overman ... Kid Coy
Roman Bohnen ... Warden A.J. Barnes
Sir Lancelot ... 'Calypso' James
Vince Barnett ... Muggsy - Convict in Kitchen
Jay C. Flippen ... Hodges - Guard
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Storyline

At overcrowded Westgate Penitentiary, where violence and fear are the norm and the warden has less power than guards and leading prisoners, the least contented prisoner is tough, single-minded Joe Collins. Most of all, Joe hates chief guard Captain Munsey, a petty dictator who glories in absolute power. After one infraction too many, Joe and his cell-mates are put on the dreaded drain pipe detail; prompting an escape scheme that has every chance of turning into a bloodbath. Written by Rod Crawford <puffinus@u.washington.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

HUMAN DYNAMITE! Told the Raw, Ruthless "KILLERS" Way! See more »


Certificate:

Passed | See all certifications »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Included among the American Film Institute's 2001 list of 400 movies nominated for the top 100 Most Heart-Pounding American Movies. See more »

Goofs

The character Soldier is in prison after taking the blame for a murder that took place when he was serving in Italy with the U.S. Army. Therefore, he would not have been in a civilian state prison. He would have been sent to the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, as he would have been court-martialed while still being a member of the U.S. Army. At the very least, he would have been sent to a federal prison if he'd somehow (highly unlikely) been able to get sent to a civilian facility. See more »

Quotes

Joe Collins: [Spencer is wavering about whether to join in with Joe's escape plan] Spencer. In or out? No guarantees go with this break. It's all or nothing. But you've gotta' make up your mind now. Now! Either way, no hard feelings.
Spencer: [after long, thoughtful pause] With you, Joe. I'll play along.
Robert 'Soldier' Becker: I never thought different.
Spencer: Neither did I.
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Crazy Credits

Starring Burt Lancaster - Hume Cronyn - Charles Bickford as the men on the "Inside" Yvonne De Carlo - Ann Blyth - Ella Raines - Anita Colby as the women on the "Outside" See more »

Connections

Referenced in Heartburn (1986) See more »

Soundtracks

Tannhäuser Overture
(uncredited)
Written by Richard Wagner
Heard when Munsey is interrogating the convict
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User Reviews

 
BRUTE FORCE (Jules Dassin, 1947) ***1/2
11 October 2007 | by Bunuel1976See all my reviews

Though I'd only previously watched this movie once almost 25 years ago on a long-defunct Sicilian TV channel called Antenna 10, some scenes have stuck with me to this day and being able to reacquaint myself with the film was a long-cherished prospect which, thanks to Criterion, I now have.

The film is the epitome of the great, hard-hitting prison dramas of the 1930s, but the style in which it was filmed also makes it fall in the "Film Noir" category. This was only Burt Lancaster's second movie but he is already a tough, powerful screen presence and his character is one of the most respected within the prison community. The casting (in characterizations which would be much imitated in subsequent prison films) is perfection: pint-sized Hume Cronyn is very effectively cast against type as the quintessential brutal prison captain of the guards, Charles Bickford is the bigwig inmate who gets things done, Sam Levene is his reporter sidekick. Lancaster's gang includes Howard Duff (making his film debut), Jeff Corey (as a surprising 'rat'), suave ladies' man John Hoyt and Whit Bissell as the most vulnerable and least likely inmate who falls victim to Cronyn's "brute force". There's also Jay C. Flippen as an easy-going prison guard, Sir Lancelot as a happy-go-lucky jack-of-all-trades whose songs often sarcastically comment on the action, Vince Barnett as an old-timer who brings food (and messages) to the most dangerous inmates currently serving in the drainpipes, and an uncredited Charles McGraw as an arms dealer. Actually, one of the best roles in the film – the alcoholic, philosophizing prison doctor who is the only one genuinely interested in the fate of his "patients" – is splendidly portrayed by an actor who was unknown to me, Art Smith, and his confrontations with Cronyn offer some of the film's quiet highlights.

While the film itself offers relatively little new in terms of plot – a few of the prisoners are planning a breakout, the sadistic and power-hungry captain is more evil than the inmates themselves, an informer is punished during a staged scuffle, a traitor is present within Lancaster's gang, the climactic escape is a botched massacre, etc – and some of the plot points rather contrived – Sam Levene being sent to the drainpipes, which results in his being tortured by Cronyn – but Dassin's assured handling still makes all of these situations work superbly well. Ironically, after a period directing mostly light fare, this was the start of a peerless run of five noir classics – culminating in his celebrated caper film, RIFIFI (1955), made while exiled in France. Curiously enough, another Hollywood exile would later on basically make the British equivalent of BRUTE FORCE – i.e. Joseph Losey's exceptional THE CRIMINAL (1960) – while the failed prison break (in similar circumstances) also brings to mind Jacques Becker's masterful swan song, LE TROU (1960).

Like THE KILLERS (1946) before it, this was a Mark Hellinger production (it features no less than four actors from that film) and so would be Dassin's follow-up – THE NAKED CITY (1948). Miklos Rozsa's music is very good and subtly underscores the action. Unfortunately, the four flashback sequences added to the film to show that the hardened criminals here are good-natured people at heart, are mostly redundant and basically only serve to provide some female interest to the story; still, they are brief enough not be detrimental to the film's overall uncompromising bleakness. Incidentally, while screenwriter Richard Brooks was involved in this capacity with several noirs – the others being THE KILLERS itself, CROSSFIRE (1947), KEY LARGO (1948) and MYSTERY STREET (1950; which I recently acquired via Warners' fourth "Film Noir Collection" but have yet to watch) – he never revisited the genre once he graduated to the director's chair (though some sources do list his Mexican Revolution-set CRISIS [1950] and the crusading newspaper story DEADLINE – U.S.A. [1952] under this flexible banner).


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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

August 1947 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Brute Force See more »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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