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Eastwood gives his best screen acting to date...
Nazi_Fighter_David15 June 2003
Warning: Spoilers
In the 29 years of Alcatraz's existence, and despite the strict measures, 39 captives tried to escape from America's premier maximum-security prison during its existence... Thirty six of whom failed... This script is about the other three, of whom nothing is known... They may have drowned in San Francisco Bay, or they may have got away...

Morris (Clint Eastwood) was a loner, a rebel against society, the perfect hero that Siegel loves... Lee Marvin in 'The Killers', Steve McQueen in 'Hell is for Heroes', and Richard Widmark in 'Madigan' were all similar types in films which he had directed..

In 'Escape From Alcatraz,' Eastwood gives his best screen acting to date... It is a charismatic performance that is so idiosyncratic, persuasive, and powerful... Eastwood, gave Morris the rough, intelligent aspect that is immediately palpable...

The first few minutes of the film consist of Morris being brought by boat to Alcatraz, inspected by a doctor and thrown into a cell... Throughout this, Eastwood does not speak... But already the audience feels it... They know the character... He has been through this before... He tries to control his mind... He builds a barrier between himself and his surroundings... He holds back his fear but he's not so foolish as to appear brave... Behind his impassivity, his mind is calculating... He is studying everyone... Everyone knows, prison guards and fellow prisoners alike, that this is not a man to be intimidated with easily...

But Siegel wasn't making a film about penal cruelty or miscarriage of justice or anything like that... He was presenting a meditative study of the inflexibility of human spirit, with a star strong enough in himself to join one sequence to the next... Both Siegel and Eastwood are known for violence, but there's relatively little of it this time...

This is not to say that Siegel has no interest in character... Stereotype characters, such as Doc and Litmus, make the film more entertaining... A further example is the inevitable homosexual Wolf (Bruce M. Fisher), who points out that Morris is a potential victim but realizes he has met his match when he approaches him in the showers one morning and gets three unexpected blows in the groin and a bar of soap in the mouth for his harassment... Another familiar type of character is English (Paul Benjamin), the leader of the Black mafia, who sits in the yard far away from the white inmates... English proves to be a nice guy..

But the biggest stereotype of them all is the cold warden, although Patrick McGoohan tries as hard as he can to provide Morris with some individual personality... Apart from the flower-crushing and constant attention to his nails, he is permitted by the scriptwriter merely to recite phrases that might have come from the prison handbook: 'No one has ever escaped from Alcatraz alive. Alcatraz was built to keep all the rotten eggs in one basket. I was specially chosen to make sure the stink from that basket doesn't escape.'

But two elements in the film are absolutely real: one is the central character, which will be considered in a moment, and the other is 'The Rock' itself...

Siegel's overwhelming achievement is to send the audience to infamous prison for two hours... The claustrophobia, the implicit suppression of any joy, the barbarity of being caged in isolation cells, all these suffocating atrocities come across with such reality that one experiences a total sense of relief when the camera moves into the recreation yard for the clear bright light of every early morning... Siegel's technique in this respect is unique...

Siegel's film style seems almost a cinematic interpretation of Eastwood screen persona: lean, clean, and harsh... Here is one example: When the incorrigible psychopath is out to finish Eastwood, his one chance is in the exercise yard... When he enters the yard, he is in need for a weapon... He has none! He slowly advances into the yard toward his victim... The camera goes down to the man's right hand as he walks... After a moment, another man puts a knife in that hand... The camera stays on the hand as he keeps moving... After another moment, another hand reaches in and grabs the con's arm.... The whole brief sequence is loaded with surprise and suspense... It is in two words: pure cinema...

Siegel's movie follows the known facts of the escape constantly, permitting itself only one act of poetic license at the very end... Throughout the film, Siegel uses a yellow chrysanthemum as a symbol of 'heart', to indicate that although the brutal system may have removed everything from the inmates save the questionable privilege of remaining alive, in some men at least their spirit survives...

'Doc', an elderly inmate who has spent twenty years there but who is permitted to paint and cultivate chrysanthemums, introduces the concept...
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Even Better If You've Seen The Famous Site
ccthemovieman-17 January 2007
An excellent second half of this film elevates it overall as the Alcatraz inmates plan and then execute their escape, narrowly missing several disastrous occurrences. The suspense during those scenes is outstanding.

Clint Eastwood is good as the fairly low-key character "Frank Morris" and most of the inmates are likable guys (which was highly unlikely in real life).

For tourists of San Francisco (of which I was one about five years ago), I would recommend taking the Alcatraz tour. It's fascinating and makes this movie even more interesting once you've seen the place. I notice the people here at IMDb make the same recommendation on the title page of this film.

Much of the rest of the cast are not well-known actors but they do a fine job in here. This is one of director Don Siegel's final films. He worked with Eastwood on "Coogan's Bluff" and then "Dirty Harry."

Transfer-wise, the DVD was not that impressive, a bit too grainy for the usual standards. However, the story is always interesting and the movie is definitely recommended.
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true story of the great escape from Alcatraz
blanche-213 May 2016
Escape from Alcatraz is a 1979 film starring Clint Eastwood, Patrick McGooghan, Roberts Blossom, and Paul Benjamin.

Eastwood is Frank Morris, who, with the two Anglin brothers (their names were changed for the film) contrived the most elaborate scheme ever to escape "The Rock." Their bodies were never found, and a photo surfaced some years later of the brothers in Brazil. The escape, plus Alcatraz's bad reputation, helped it close less than a year later.

The movie gives a good idea of the horrors of prison life, and particularly the horrors of Alcatraz. Frankly, I don't think the escapees cared if they died. I'm sure anything was better than being in Alcatraz.

Escape from Alcatraz is old-fashioned in that it has the art of the buildup, something lost in today's scripts. Today you must get to the point of your story in the first ten minutes. A film, for instance, like San Francisco where the earthquake happens toward the end would be a no-no.

So we see the preparations, and they're impressive - papier mache heads with hair stolen from the barber shop to fool the guards into thinking they were asleep, digging out a grill at the back of the cell and putting a false grill up to fool the guards; welding a digging tool together with silver from a dime; the making of a raft; playing music while digging to hide the noise (though this really isn't shown). It was painstaking.

Patrick McGoohan plays the warden, who, like all film prison wardens, is a horror show. When he sees a portrait of himself in a cell, he takes away the painting privileges of one of the inmates, Doc. When he finds out two inmates are talking cell to cell, he demands that they be separated.

Actually, at the time of the escape, the warden was Olin Blackwell, considered the most lenient warden Alcatraz had ever had. And by then, inmates were performing music (shown in the film), and had weekend movies (also shown).

Clint Eastwood, heavier than we've seen him in years, does an excellent job as Frank Morris, low-key but lethal. There isn't a tremendous amount of dialogue, but with his great presence and Frank's quiet leadership, we really don't need it.

Recommended for a gritty look at life on Alcatraz, and the fascinating escape.
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Rock hard
paul2001sw-12 June 2004
Alcatraz was America's toughest high-security prison, and has been much beloved by film-makers since it closed and became available as a set. Don Siegel's film is based on the true story of an attempted escape. Some aspects are clichéd (the psychopathic homosexual, for example) and by concentrating on the brutality of the regime the film gets you on the side of the escapees at the price of suggesting that prison break-outs are actually a good thing. But in general, this is a successful film that has aged well, with no sickly sentiment or overdone melodrama; by concentrating on the unadorned details of the story, the film allows each one to count. A strong, uncompromising movie, gripping even if you know the ending before it starts.
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Escape impossible?
lost-in-limbo6 March 2007
Frank Morris was a bank robber who has escape many prisons in his time, but for his troubles his transported from Atlanta and shipped off to the rock they call Alcatraz. Where supposedly no one can escape. The maximum security prison life is jarringly miserable and hopeless. The prison warden intends to keep it that way. Morris makes some friends, but also an enemy which wants to see him dead, after turning down his proposal with brute force. Through a small glimpse of hope and luck. Morris actually discovers a possible way of escape and carefully plans it out with the aid of a couple of inmates.

You can always count on the influential pairing of Clint Eastwood and Don Siegel. No matter what. On their filth and final partnership they come up with another genuine winner in the shape of the grippingly harrowing and sedated prison yarn shaped off J. Campbell Bruce's novel (and the supposed true story) of the only three men to break out of Alcatraz. It's hard not marvel at Siegel's sturdily compact craftsmanship in depicting the dour prison life with moody realism and how the story eventually folds out into a tautly drawn up break out attempt. The build up doesn't sway off course, but sticks to its simple narrative and characteristics with effective results. There's nothing explosive and downright exciting, but there's spirit lurking under the cold looking domain that eventually comes through. Like quoted in the film the rock would either break you or inspire you to fight on. The smartly layered plot works this into the characters very successfully and despite the predictability, it stays admirably honest without the need of sensationalising the facts and ambiguous conclusion. It starts of small and stays that way to the end, even with its dominantly large situation. The well-articulated script by Richard Tuggle is scanty with a lot of quiet patches. But it when comes to the forefront it manages to be cunning, but also touching. There's nothing overwrought here and gladly it doesn't succumb to that. Pacing is quite subdued, but this helps enhances the creaky mood and sophomoric nature of Alcatraz. Drama and action is kept to a minimal. Being shot on Alcatraz help chipped out such a towering and gritty presence the film held strongly and Bruce Surtees' fixedly expressive cinematography gets amongst the shadowy, dank and gloomy interior. Jerry Fielding's poignantly lingering and uncanny music score only adds more to the nauseating air whiffed up through the presentation. Clint Eastwood plays it quite steely and lean. He fit's the role smoothly as Morris. The support roles are reliably good, even if they are stuck with generic characters. Patrick McGoohan is sinisterly fine as the warden and Robert Blossom and Frank Ronzio are delightfully moving as two elder prison inmates. Paul Benjamin, Bruce M. Fischer, Fred Ward and Larry Hankin as the edgily weak-minded Charley Butts are memorably excellent in their parts.

We've been down this path before, but this efficient offering plays it cards in a very understated manner and is to the point that I found it hard not to be fascinated by it's bitter depiction. Take the chance with this fortress.
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Interesting and underrated.
Chromium_510 November 2004
Some people complain that this movie is "boring." It's true it is very quiet and low-key, but this isn't necessarily a bad thing. It has a distinct realistic feel to it, and it manages to be extremely suspenseful without using over-the-top action or an overblown soundtrack. There were several moments that actually had me on the edge of my seat.

Fans of Eastwood and McGoohan, who both give fantastic performances, should love this. Fans of prison movies should love this. Fans of suspense movies in general should love this. It is a top-notch movie with good performances all around, and I'd highly recommend it.

10/10 stars. Pure, solid entertainment.
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The Ones Who (Might Have) Got Away
timdalton00723 December 2010
Alcatraz: the escape proof prison located on an island in San Francisco Bay. During its 29 years as a U.S Federal Prison there were over a dozen escape attempts which failed. Yet one attempt in 1962 might just have succeeded in breaking three of its inmates out. That attempt is the focus of the 1979 film Escape From Alcatraz, a superb example of how to bring a real-life story to the screen.

The cast is stellar but low key throughout. Clint Eastwood plays the ringleader of the escape, Frank Morris. Eastwood portrays Morris as being a low key, intelligent and yet charismatic individual who uses both his brain and personality in the lead up to the escape. His nemesis is the cold, ruthless and at times even vindictive prison warden played by Patrick McGoohan in a role that seems tailor made for him even if he only pops up in the film every so often but does so to great effect. Appearing about mid-way through the film to aid in the escape are the Anglin twins who are the played with charm and charisma by Fred Ward and Jack Thibeau. Along the way we meet some of Alcatraz's other prisoners including Paul Benjamin as English, Roberts Blossom as the painter Doc, Frank Ronzio as long term prisoner Litmus, Bruce M. Fischer as the appropriately named prison animal Wolf and Larry Hankin as potential escapee Charley Butts (though the name of the actual prisoner was changed for the film). The performances are all low key which adds to the atmosphere and suspense of the film immensely.

The entire film has an atmosphere of menace and suspense to it. From the moment Morris is brought to the island, director Don Siegel places the viewer into the exact same situation the character (and by extension the real prisoner) finds himself in: a world confined to a small piece of island where time passes by slowly, escape seems impossible and, thanks to fellow prisoners like Wolf, death could potentially hit you at any moment. The film was shot inside the infamous prison itself, the film therefore has a strong sense of authenticity to it that is hard to achieve in a studio set. Sequences such as Morris' time in solitary confinement in D-block or the escape attempt itself showcase this fact.

That sense of authenticity is combined with the work of those behind the camera to create the aforementioned atmosphere. The solitary confinement sequence, for example, is inter-cut by Ferris Webster to include shots of the sun rising and setting over the prison to help give the audience a sense of time that I suspect would have been a luxury to anyone who has ever experienced it. The score from Jerry Fielding is, like the rest of the film, low key to be point of barely being noticeable yet highly effective when it is used. The one thing that brings that atmosphere though is the cinematography of Bruce Surtees which gives the entire film a cold look akin to a permanently gloomy day and permanently dark nights. The result is a film that keeps you on edge the whole time, even if you know how it ends.

Which, in a way, brings us to the script. Richard Tuggle's script, based on the J. Campbell Bruce book of the same name, has the feeling of being a meticulously researched, well thought out piece of writing. The script stays very true to the known facts of the escape with only a few minor changes (such as the name of the potential fourth escapee for example). As a result this film isn't fast paced or action packed. The story builds as we see Morris settling into the prison, adjusting to it, formulate the escape plan and then work towards carrying it out. There's plenty of suspense along the way as each stage has its own risks and potential to go wrong, which keeps the viewer waiting to see what happens next. The result is that the escape attempt itself is made all the more powerful in terms of its suspense. Yet Tuggle keeps his characters at the center and keeps their characterizations firmly anchored in reality. As a result the script makes the film real and suspenseful without ever letting never letting the facts, overwhelm the people.

Escape From Alcatraz is a superb example of how to bring a true story to the screen. From its low key but effective performances to its authenticity and sense of menace, the film is highly effective both as a docudrama and as a suspense film. While those who can only stand the fast pace editing and highly stylistic films of today might find it utterly dull, others will find a fascinating true story brought to life in fine form.
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solid prison-breakout flick with machismo wit and fine touches of ambiguity
Quinoa19842 September 2007
The last of the five collaborations between director Don Siegel and producer/actor Clint Eastwood, Escape from Alcatraz isn't a great blockbuster action flick like Dirty Harry or an experiment like the Beguiled. It is more the former, if anything, and a crackerjack example at best of what to do in crafting suspense from the elements of basic despair in the mindset of men. Barely sentimental (the exception might be with the loss of painting privileges for one prisoner), the film is an examination of a cold system put on by hard-bitten prisoners who are stuck by what the character English says is "one huge count." It isn't a kind of existential struggle like A Man Escaped, nor a big bombastic crowd-pleaser like Shawshank Redemption either. But for its intended audience, which are fans of its perennial heroic star, and for the lean style from director Siegel, it's one always worth a look when it pops up on TV or if it remains sitting all by itself on the video shelf at the store.

Basics to know: Eastwood plays Frank Morris, a criminal who broke out of an Atlanta prison and got sent to Alcatraz, the most insurmountable prison ever constructed. But after taking enough guff from the exacting prison warden (McGoohan looks like he's not entirely acting, as if he's been a warden for years and years, which is why he's one of the most convincing of all movie wardens), getting stuck in the horror that is 'the hole', and seeing the damage done to fellow prisoners, he takes action through the crumbling wall of his grate. Among certain accepted- and refreshingly well done- prison movie clichés, we get the big fat brute (Bruce M Fishcer), the wise old inmate (Paul Benjamin, some of his are the subtlest scenes), and the determined but weak-in-the-spirit inmate (Larry Hanklin, a great character actor, one of those like Robert Schiavelli you can spot right away). And all the while, the storytelling goes at a pace that never rushes, never pushes against little details with Litmus or the visitors to the inmates.

If sometimes it doesn't give a little bit of exposition on some characters- like its protagonist (we never know how bad Eastwood really is or not, he just is, though unlike a Nicholson he never really exploits any kind of rebel posit)- and sometimes has a moment of suspense that can be seen right around the corner (a funny sound while digging, trouble with the disguised dummy heads in the beds), the climax practically makes up for any moments of conventionality. Especially if one isn't completely familiar with the real history behind the Alcatraz escape it cranks up to a high degree through the dark shadows of the prison innards and the outside at night. And it's also fascinating to see an indefinite point at the end of the film; it's the attempt that counts, not the total end result. A cool and effective thriller. 8.5/10
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An excellent prison picture.
Hey_Sweden29 August 2013
Warning: Spoilers
It's a testament to the compelling nature of the story that this film can run an hour and 52 minutes and not feel nearly that long. This is interesting and involving every step of the way, with producer & director Don Siegel treating the material in the most matter of fact way possible. There's no melodrama here, and no filler. The performances are all low key, natural, and convincing.

Clint Eastwood, in his fifth and final pairing with Siegel, is well cast as bank robber Frank Morris, who's sent to the notorious Alcatraz island prison after having busted out of other prisons. He takes his time adjusting to his new surroundings, and makes acquaintances such as Doc (Roberts Blossom) and English (Paul Benjamin), meeting up with old friends the Anglin brothers (Jack Thibeau, Fred Ward) and defending himself from trouble making bruiser Wolf (Bruce M. Fischer). He soon realizes that he can dig his way through the brittle wall of his cell and decides that he'll take his chances and try to escape.

Based on the true story of the 1962 breakout from the supposedly foolproof prison, this is simply good solid storytelling from Siegel. To make it feel more real, the use of a music score is sparing, and Jerry Fieldings' score is pretty subtle anyway. This is one film that truly holds your attention, with one riveting sequence after another. And the cast plays it very well. Patrick McGoohan is perfectly icy as the warden who does his best to break the spirit of his inmates, and who clearly relishes exercising his power. Blossom is so good as easygoing convict Doc that you miss him when he's written out of the picture. Benjamin has a quietly powerful presence impressive enough to match Clints'. Thibeau and Ward are engaging as is comedic actor Larry Hankin in one of his rare straight parts as hard luck inmate Charley Butts.

Quite atmospheric throughout, with a wonderfully suspenseful climactic breakout, the film ends on a memorably ambiguous note. Did in fact Frank and the Anglins make it, or perish in their escape attempt? The truth of the matter is that they were never heard from again, and it's up to us to come up with the conclusion.

A superb effort overall.

10 out of 10.
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Frank Morris doesn't seek redemption; - only an exit...
Coventry19 January 2021
I'm undoubtedly going to get virtually molested for making statements like these, but whatever... It's my honest and humble opinion that, because of "Escape from Alcatraz" (and perhaps 2 or 3 other solid but underrated prison dramas), a film like "The Shawshank Redemption" does not deserve to be labeled as one of the greatest - or even THE greatest, according to this wonderful website - movie of all time. Don't crucify me just yet. I do concur "Shawshank" is a great film, but so many of the original and brilliant aspects that its fans praise and worship so much already featured here first, in this genius fifth (and final) collaboration between director Don Siegel and anti-hero Clint Eastwood. I won't go as far to claim the script/novel of "Shawshank Redemption" is a rip-off (although it wouldn't be the first time Stephen King steals from other sources) but it's definitely a big influence and inspiration.

The most astounding trick Siegel and Eastwood pull, is serving us a slow-paced and atmospheric drama rather than an exhilarating action flick, and yet it doesn't at all feel like a swindle. "Escape from Alcatraz" is a stoic and slow brooding, yet compelling depiction of prison life, its strict routines and its lack of privileges. The titular escape, which largely exists of tunneling out with a pair of nail clippers (!), is often even a mere footnote, while the real essence revolves around the solidarity between inmates and their collective fist against the corrupt prison authorities.

Needless to say, Eastwood is at his best portraying a cool, distant, arrogant and enigmatic Frank Morris. From the moment he arrives at Alcatraz, it's more than obvious that his sole mission will be to escape, even though the megalomaniacal head warden fanatically makes it clear The Rock is impossible to escape from. The latter is a strong role for Patrick McGoohan, by the way. Great, great film. No nonsense, no unnecessary dialogs or redundant sub plots, just pure craftmanship!
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Powerful and authentic prison yarn.
barnabyrudge11 September 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Star Clint Eastwood and director Don Siegel made some excellent films together in the '70s. Their final collaboration came in 1979 with Escape From Alcatraz, a very authentic-looking prison drama based on the true story of the only successful escape from the notorious island-prison off San Francisco. In reality, no-one can be sure that Frank Morris and the Anglin brothers DID actually get away.... there is a very real possibility that they drowned or suffered hypothermia while trying to swim to safety. But the bodies of Morris and his cronies were never recovered, so neither can anyone categorically state that they perished. As a result of this legendary escape, Alcatraz lost its reputation as an inescapable penitentiary and was closed down just over a year later.

Convicted bank robber Frank Morris (Clint Eastwood) is moved to Alcatraz after repeatedly attempting to escape from his previous jail. Here he finds himself at the mercy of a ruthless and power-hungry warden (Patrick McGoohan) whose attitude toward the prisoners is one of utter contempt. Frank also finds his new fellow inmates to be alternately hostile or hopeless. While some inmates spend their time bullying and intimidating, others wallow in despair as endless months pass them by. Among the desperate ones, Frank meets "Doc" Dalton (Roberts Blossom), a convict with a talent for painting who chops off his own fingers when the warden refuses to let him paint. Also, Frank meets the Anglin brothers - Clarence (Jack Thibeau) and John (Fred Ward) - another pair with a reputation for attempting to escape from the jails they have been in. Frank and the Anglins put into action an audacious new escape plan. Using stolen spoons they dig their way to a ventilation shaft; using mirrors they watch the corridors outside their cells for approaching guards; using makeshift mortar they hide their digging work; and using papier-mache they make lifelike heads which they place on their pillows to make it look like they are sleeping peacefully.

Escape From Alcatraz is a film of great tension and gritty authenticity. Although Morris and the Anglins are bad men doing time for their bad crimes, we are made to root for them because the warden - indeed the whole "system" - is shown to be so cruel and unforgiving. Eastwood is physically commanding in his taciturn role, while McGoohan gives a chilling performance as the warden, and Blossom elicits great sympathy as the prisoner who harbours no desire to cause trouble but is devastated when banned from doing his beloved paintings. The whole prison atmosphere - with its tedium, fear, isolation and desperation - is evoked very realistically. The escape itself is shown in a sequence of 30 minutes or so at the end of the film. It is a mark of how well made Escape From Alcatraz is that this final 30 minute stretch takes place in near-darkness and is almost wordless, yet remains completely gripping.
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Ain't no prison big enough for Clint Eastwood
tieman6415 January 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Director Don Siegel and actor Clint Eastwood always do classy work together, and "Escape From Alcatraz" is no different.

The film simply involves Clint Eastwood being locked away in Alcatraz prison and then planning and enacting an escape, but the end result is nevertheless one of the best prison escape movies precisely because Siegel's stripped down, no nonsense, ruggedly masculine directorial style perfectly meshes with Clint's stripped down, no nonsense, ruggedly masculine acting style. It's a film in which Siegel's camera simply watches, with minimum fuss, as Clint digs through a wall and escapes a top security prison, with minimum fuss.

With the death of Peckinpah and Siegel, no one makes these manly movies today, directors now all pampered and privileged. When Siegel made a movie, you could feel the grime, sweat and testosterone.

In terms of flaws, the film rather sneakily neglects to tell us why Clint and his associates are in prison, and goes to great lengths to portray the prison warden as a villain, the end result being that we're essentially conned into wishing for the escape of bad people.

Of course most prison movies are largely existential tales. Like Paul Newman and Steve McQueen in their respective prison movies, Clint's less a criminal than an everyman who embodies our yearning for freedom, the film appealing to our desires for escape, transgression and rebellion. Thankfully, Siegel doesn't hype up these existential aspects, the director underplaying or ignoring them entirely in favour for a more dry, docudrama approach. If Clint signed up to the film in order to take his internalized, stoic acting style to new heights, then Siegel was drawn to a script filled with methodical planning. More than most, directors love when a good plan comes together.

8/10 – The film isn't as good as Siegel and Clint's best collaboration, "The Beguiled", but it's still excellent. Clint's the coolest actor since Bogart, and while this is a very simple tale, its procedural like direction, detachment and simple plot mesh perfectly with Clint's quiet scenery chewing, impressive scowling and laconic mannerisms. The film's poster was based on the famous "A Clockwork Orange" poster.

Worth one viewing.
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good prison and escape movie
SnoopyStyle5 February 2015
It's 1960 San Francisco. Bank robber Frank Morris (Clint Eastwood) has tried too many escapes and is brought to Alcatraz where no one has ever escaped from. He befriends Litmus with his mouse and becomes Wolf's enemy. English (Paul Benjamin) runs the library. It turns out that English is the top among the blacks. Charley Butts moves into the next cell. Brothers Clarence Anglin and John Anglin (Fred Ward) join Frank in Alcatraz after a failed escape.

It's a nice prison movie with all the horrors that entails and an escape scheme. It's a bit slow and lacks a truly scary opponent. The warden is nothing special. Patrick McGoohan doesn't have enough threatening presence. Wolf is too soft and goes away for much of the movie. I wish more is done with the antagonists of the movie. Nevertheless, it's a good escape movie. Clint is at the top of his game.
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edwagreen19 February 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Alcatraz with its boast then no one ever escaped from it forms the basis of the true story of the men who did. Even though the ending is not satisfying, we have a true gritty film with Clint Eastwood leading a plan with others to get away.

Naturally, we have the hard-nosed warden played with precision by Patrick McGoohan. His insensitivity and cruelty alone shall drive you to root for the potential escapees.

How they plan their get-away is a story within itself even as the warden becomes increasingly suspicious. They just jump the gun and while their fate is unknown until this very day, we may actually applaud their efforts.
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Clint Eastwood and Don Siegel team up for a fine final time
Woodyanders19 January 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Shrewd bank robber Frank Morris (superbly played with commendable restraint by Clint Eastwood) gets sent to serve time in the legendary maximum security prison Alcatraz. Run with an iron fist by a ruthless and sadistic warden (a marvelously wicked portrayal by Patrick McGoohan), Morris plots to escape from the penitentiary that's supposed to be impossible to break out of.

Director Don Siegel astutely nails the drab monotony, stark brutality, and utter hopelessness of life behind bars in a compelling, straightforward, and refreshingly unsentimental manner. Richard Tuggle's tight script wisely avoids any melodramatic subplots or heavy-handed social commentary. While Eastwood clearly dominates the film with his trademark quietly commanding authority, he nonetheless receives terrific support from Roberts Blossom as easygoing and artistic old felon Doc, Fred Ward as the cocky John Anglin, Jack Thibeau as John's hotheaded brother Clarence, Richard Benjamin as the antagonistic English, Larry Hankin as the meek Charley Butts, Frank Ronzio as the amiable Litmus, and Bruce M. Fischer as monstrous predator Wolf. The sharp, yet no-frills cinematography by Bruce Surtees further adds to the overall gritty realism. Jerry Fielding's spare moody score rates as another significant asset. The climactic escape is expertly staged with Siegel's customary clockwork precision for supreme tension and excitement. Excellent.
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Classic! And may I say best prison movie ever?
Boba_Fett11384 May 2005
There are many who regard "The Shawshank Redemption" as the ultimate prison movie. I seriously don't. In terms of atmosphere and realism, this is a more superior movie. Also when you watch this movie it becomes obvious to you how incredibly much Stephen King 'copied' (and not even subtly, he basically copied entire characters and events) from this movie for the both of his novels that are set in prisons; "The Shawshank Redemption" and to a smaller extend "The Green Mile".

Yes of course "The Shawshank Redemption" has a totally brilliant story and some top-class acting but I still see "Escape from Alcatraz" as a better movie. The story is more believable which add to the realism of the movie. "The Shawshank Redemption" is a way more over-dramatized movie if you like, while "Escape from Alcatraz" is just simply realistic and honest with its story. Yes the story of this movie might be told and filmed in a slow way but the movie is only 112 minutes long, so this shouldn't be a serious complaint. The movie is never dragging and not 1 minute shorter or longer than was needed.

It should be so that everyone who is about to see or has seen "The Shawshank Redemption" should also watch "Escape from Alcatraz" and then ask yourself this: What does "The Shawsank Redemption" has got that this movie hasn't and what is that makes it that "The Shawshank Redemption" is so incredibly high in the IMDb top250 while "Escape from Alcatraz" isn't even in that same top250.

For the record, I like "The Shawshank Redemption" very much as a movie and even though I think (and also thought so before seeing this movie) that it is a bit of an overrated movie, I would probably still rate it an 9/10.

But enough about "The Shawshank Redemption", let's talk about the quality of this movie. What makes "Escape from Alcatraz" an absolute classic is the atmosphere and like I said before the realism of the characters, the events and the story in general. It was also great to see Clint Eastwood in this role. Before this movie he mostly only played just the hero's in westerns like "Buono, il brutto, il cattivo, Il", "Hang 'Em High" and "The Outlaw Josey Wales" and in WW II movies like "Kelly's Heroes" and "Where Eagles Dare" or as super cop Harry Callahan in "Dirty Harry". I think this is more a movie in which Clint shows his acting abilities. Also I enjoyed seeing Patrick McGoohan, to be fair I only saw him in three movies before this: "Braveheart" his small role in "A Time to Kill" and the Columbo movie "Columbo: Ashes to Ashes". But despite that fact that I only saw him a small amount of roles, I already adored him as an actor. He was also great in this movie and wow, he looked so incredibly young compared to the movies I had seen him in.

In my opinion THE ultimate prison movie and an absolute classic, due to its atmosphere and realism.

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The Rock
jotix10018 December 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Alcatraz prison, located in San Francisco Bay, was considered a fortress that made escaping impossible. As with any rule, where logic tells us there is no way of breaking, there are those daring minds that will do everything to break it, as it's the case of Alcatraz. The inmates we are introduced to, in this gripping prison drama where the security was airtight and prisoners confined to spend time there had no chance, there will always be a Frank Morris, who had experience fleeing other facilities. Morris will try everything in his power to prove he can beat the system.

The action takes place inside this maximum security jail. Frank Morris, who attracts unduly interest from another inmate who had plans for him, proves to be tougher than his outward appearance revealed. One thing is certain, he is no fool. He befriends a black prisoner that will turn to be someone that will save his life. His meeting with the Anglin brothers was a deciding factor in the way Frank planned and executed his amazing feat.

Director Don Siegel was an influential man in the American cinema. His long association with Clint Eastwood, who stars in this picture, produced a string of actions films unequaled by any other team in Hollywood's history. Mr. Eastwood learned a lot from Siegel when his career as a director took off. This film was one of the crowning achievements of his long, and productive life. Working with his favorite cameraman, Bruce Sortees, the director places the action in the former prison that the cinematographer captures in great detail. There are two narratives, the first one, has to do with prison life. The second is planning and escaping, a difficult task at best, because the waters around that area were treacherous for anyone that dared to swim to freedom.

The laconic Frank Morris, as played by Clint Eastwood, was one of his best creations. Patrick McGoohan is seen as the cruel warden who rules over all these desperate criminals. Fred Ward and Jack Thibeau are seen as the Anglin brothers. A great ensemble cast of character actors do excellent work for Mr. Siegel. In the background, unknown at the time, Danny Glover, can be seen.
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Full of prison clichés but more of a reflection on prison life than a genre movie
bob the moo31 May 2004
When people disobey the rules of society they get sent to prison. When they disobey the rules of prison they get sent to Alcatraz. Transferred from Atlanta, this is the true story of Frank Morris – the only man to break out of Alcatraz prison. Morris comes to the prison to find cruel guards and monotony are the norm, all resided over by the disinterested warden. With time he makes both friends and enemies and begins to plan his way out of his cell and out of the prison.

I have seen this film once before, probably more than a decade ago and I wasn't going to try and review it from my distant memory of it so I watched it again the other day. From my memory of the film and the opening 15 minutes I assumed that this was just going to be an effective break-out thriller with all the usual clichés in place – the shanks, the old man with a small animal, the old timer who goes nuts etc, and in some regards this is what it is. However it is also very unusual for a prison movie because it is so very low key and slow. In this way it is like the prison life itself – based in routine without a great deal actually happening, certainly the film engages consistently rather than relying on a handful of set pieces to do it. For this reason some viewers may be turned off by it as they expect more from prison dramas, certainly viewers of HBO's Oz cannot help but find this to be lacking in action.

I don't want my comments to be taken out of context so I will say that I think that this is a very effective film in what it tries to do. It is slow but never dull, clichéd but never uninteresting. Siegel's direction shows good control and it is matched by a performance from Clint Eastwood that is so understated that at times it seemed like he would disappear from the screen with a slight whiff of smoke – this was not a showy performance but it was a very good one. He is supported by a cast that delivers mostly clichéd characters but delivers them without overdoing it or pushing it to the point where they are too obvious. The support cast includes turns from Blossum, Benjamin, Fischer, Hankin and Fred Ward. McGoohan doesn't have a great deal to do but he plays his character well, with a strange half smile on his face for much of the time – a knowing look reflecting the irony of the most famous Prisoner becoming the warden perhaps?

Overall this is lacking in fireworks or big set pieces (even the escape at the end is delivered without dramatic flourishes or tense music) but that is it's aim. The film captures the dull routine of prison life including the violence and the treatment while also telling a good story that it has the good taste to leave open as it was in real life.
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"Some men are destined never to leave Alcatraz... alive"
ackstasis27 September 2009
Warning: Spoilers
'Escape from Alcatraz (1979)' is such a delicate, understated film that it could only be the work of a veteran. The film was Don Siegel's final collaboration with Clint Eastwood, whom he had passionately mentored since directing him in 'Coogan's Bluff (1968).' Here, Siegel recognises that adapting a true story requires some dramatic restraint, but nor does he feel tied to factual details; the film is less concerned with narrative than in evoking the mood of prison life. Indeed, the "escape" in the title doesn't take centre-stage until the film's final act, and even then Siegel resists the urge to transform it into an epic Hitchcockian set-piece (though there's certainly nothing wrong with them). The escape instead plays more closely to the wordless heist sequence in Dassin's 'Rififi (1955),' heart-stopping because it places the viewer on the scene and at the mercy of the characters' mistakes. Every clank of metal or heavy footfall inspires an instinctive flinch, despite the foreknowledge of events signalled in the film's title.

Eastwood, though rarely celebrated for his acting subtlety, always excelled at giving internalised masculine portrayals, particularly when playing laconic Western heroes like The Man With No Name. In 'Escape from Alcatraz,' as in Leone's Westerns, his character enters without much in the way of a back-story: no family, and only a vague history of previous escape attempts. This ghost-like ambiguity allows the audience to sympathise with Frank Morris' plight. Furthermore, Morris is far more intelligent than he lets on, speaking only when practical – watch closely and you'll notice that, even from his opening moments at Alcatraz, he spends most of his time unobtrusively scouring his environment for a means of escape. Only once – following Doc's (Roberts Blossom) mental breakdown at the hands of the Warden's vanity – does Morris really say what he's thinking, and he is lucky to get away with the outburst. Patrick McGoohan also delivers a similarly controlled performance. Without painting the Warden as villainous, he manages to portray the man as lonely, insecure and ultimately impotent.

'Escape from Alcatraz' borrows plenty from the prison films of previous years – among them Frankenheimer's 'Birdman of Alcatraz (1962)' and Schaffner's 'Papillon (1973)' {Siegel himself had preceded these with his own 'Riot in Cell Block 11 (1954),' which I haven't seen}. However, the film also proved influential in its own right, and Darabont's 'The Shawshank Redemption (1994)' simply could not have existed without it. Narrative cinema typically requires a reassuringly tidy conclusion, and so there's potential difficulty in telling a true story whose ending remains unknown. Siegel handles this issue with poise, concocting a curious blend of hope and uncertainty that provides just enough closure without overreaching his artistic license: A chrysanthemum flower, a symbol of human hope, flits delicately on the island shore; Jerry Fielding's score whirs eerily on the soundtrack, the credits rolling over the grotesque image of Morris' paper-mache mask – a shell of the man who once slept in that bed. Just as he entered the film as a ghost, so too does Frank Morris depart it.
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Interesting drama
grantss22 August 2014
Interesting drama. Loosely based on an actual prison break from Alcatraz, shows in detail the plans of the prisoners to escape, and how they implement them. Also shows some of the deprivations they had to suffer, and some of the events leading up to their attempt to escape.

Good plot and direction. Build-up is good, almost painstaking. What could have been a dull join-the-dots exercise is instead a gripping story, where the conclusion isn't obvious. The human side of prison life is also well-portrayed.

Clint Eastwood is perfectly cast as the lead escapee. Tough yet scheming, and not compromising. Good support from Patrick McGoohan as the warden, Fred Ward, Jack Thibeau and Paul Benjamin.
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Enjoyable...even if the 'heroes' are all bad guys.
planktonrules14 January 2013
"Escape From Alcatraz" is a fictionalization of an actual escape. However, in reality, no one is positive (other than perhaps a few) whether or not the three men actually successfully escaped. They either drowned or made it--no one has definitively determined which. It's sort of a what might have happened sort of film--and even here, they keep it a tad vague.

The film begins with a new prisoner (Clint Eastwood) being processed into the prison. For those who care, you get to see Eastwood and his 49 year-old butt. He plays a most unusual guy--a prisoner who is simply a prisoner. You know he committed SOME crime--but what it is you never learn. All he knows is that the life at Alcatraz is wearing him down and he longs to escape this supposedly escape-proof prison. The first half of the film shows his life in prison, the entire second half of the movie the meticulous plan to escape. Now two other men escaped with him, but you only see it from Eastwood's character's point of view.

"Escape From Alcatraz" has its pluses and minuses. The biggest plus is not trying to overly dramatize the action--it just is what it is--like real prison. The other plus is showing the detailed work on the escape--it was most interesting to watch. On the negative side, there isn't a lot of character development here. You want, on one hand, to root for him BUT since you don't know what he did to get in prison or anything about him, he might be a child molester or murderer! Overall, well worth seeing even with its weak character development.
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One Of Eastwood's Best None Franchise Movies
slightlymad225 April 2017
Escape From Alcatraz (1979)

Plot In A Paragraph: The true story of Frank Morris (Eastwood) a cunning bank robber who was sent to Alcatraz Island, the most feared prison in the world. Although nobody had ever escaped from Alcatraz, Frank masterminded this elaborately detailed and, as far as anyone knows, ultimately successful, escape. In 29 years, this seemingly impenetrable federal penitentiary, which housed Al Capone and "Birdman" Robert Stroud, was only broken once by three inmates never heard of again.

Rounding out the decade that saw him jump back in the saddle again, make Harry Callahan a household name, hang out with an Orangutan, steal Nazi gold and run The Gauntlet, Eastwood ended the decade back with Don Siegel in their final movie together. It's a shame a silly ego fuelled rift ruined a great working relationship. They made up of course, but they never worked together again.

One of my favourite non franchise Clint Eastwood movies Escape From Alcatraz is brilliant. It's well directed, has a tight, tense script and is well acted!! It's just simply masterful storytelling. If there is one criticism of the movie, it's that it's ending is a little anti climactic. But there's so much that's so good in the film, in the performances, the characters, the minutely observed details of prison life, the timing of events leading up to the escape that it's hard to pick faults with such a well done movie.

Escape From Alcatraz grossed $43 million at the domestic box office to end the year as the 15th highest grossing movie of 1979.
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Drama not action make great movies!!
ticklemetorgo25 June 2005
And Escape from Alcatraz is a great movie. Based on a true story, it's one of those rare films that doesn't contain endless mindless fight scenes, overt homo eroticism, impossible action scenes, cartoon like special effects that film makers seem to be overly obsessed about these days. Somebody on the board asked if they should do a re-make of the film. NO!!!! Escape from Alcatraz is excellent as it is. The film is all suspense and great acting. The prison scenes realistic. I'd been to Alcatraz before (as a tourist) and a lot of it is in ruins but the film makes it look like the prison is still intact.

I know some people may find the film dull, well that's fine. Go elsewhere and watch your cartoon action films. I'll stick with cool films like Escape from Alcatraz.
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Portrays Prison Life Realistically While Re-Enacting One of the Greatest Prison Breaks of All Time
classicalsteve9 February 2008
Not many historical movies have ever been shot in the exact locale of the events that actually took place, which makes "Escape from Alcatraz" a unique film experience. The entire film was shot at the real Alcatraz Prison. The cell from which Morris escaped, the ventilator shaft where the escapees trekked from their cells to the rooftop, and finally down vertical piping on the wall to the bay are all areas of the prison. In short, the camera followed the footsteps of the escapees down nearly the exact path they may have taken, the actors crawling, sneaking, and climbing as Morris and his cohorts did almost 20 years before the making of the film.

The most interesting aspect of the film is of course the plans, the ingenuity, and the hard work that went into the escape. The dummy heads, the fake grills, and the raft were all pieces of a larger puzzle designed to not only get them out of Alcatraz, but give them a head start over their captors. This aspect is what makes the film compelling from start to finish. The tools and materials stolen and procured are what allowed the escapees to enact what has become probably the most famous and talked-about prison break in the history of American crime. And the film does an excellent job of showing the many ingenious innovations enacted by the escapees.

Almost as compelling as the logistics of the break is the portrayal of prison life. Given that no film cam substitute for the true experience of prison life, "Escape from Alcatraz" may come the closest. In parts, the viewer almost feels like he or she is within the brick and mortar of Alcatraz along with these inmates experiencing the lock-up of lock-ups. People are not terribly friendly. There is no world except the prison. Magazines like "Boys Life" are fought over by the inmates. Solitary confinement, or D-Block, is the punishment for transgressions inside the prison, often imposed without a fair hearing. This is prison life at its darkest and loneliest.

There are a few Hollywood embellishments which are to be expected. Clint Eastwood portrays Frank Morris on the relatively positive side, as one who befriends a black inmate, commiserates with a few of the older prisoners, and even cares about some of the lifers. An older inmate is a painter, and another has a pet mouse or rat. Eastwood takes an interest in both characters. And the warden, played with stoic cynicism by Patrick MacGoohan, is cold, heartless, and, at one point, offended by the painter-inmate. The movie is from the inmates' perspective, and most viewers will inevitably take their side and root for the escapees.

The real Frank Morris sounds like he was probably the last person to make friends with many people, let alone those of African-American descent. Based on what little is known about him, he was probably neither sentimental nor caring. What the movie does reveal correctly is that Morris had exceptional intelligence, which allowed him to successfully rob banks and escape from other prisons. It is fun to wonder whether the real Frank Morris ever saw this movie and took pleasure in being portrayed by Clint Eastwood. The portrayal of the other cohorts by Fred Ward and Jack Thibeau as the Anglin brothers was probably more true-to-life. And even if they didn't make it out of the Bay and to freedom, Morris and his partners have been immortalized by this film.

Overall, a great film with exceptional production value, and not to be missed. The portrayal of the shut-in is maybe unequaled in film history, even if the characters were slightly sentimentalized. And the film also reaffirms human beings' knack for attempting the impossible against all odds. And why shouldn't they try to escape? They have nothing to lose.
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A masterpiece of visual storytelling
tomgillespie200211 October 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Before their falling out, director Don Siegel and actor Clint Eastwood made some great films together, beginning with Coogan's Bluff in 1968 and ending with arguably their finest work, Escape from Alcatraz in 1979. Like Eastwood's character Frank Morris, Escape from Alcatraz is lean and no-nonsense, set completely within the walls of the infamous island prison. It's also a masterpiece of visual storytelling, with Siegel displaying a skill for capturing the routine of life in Alcatraz, from the small individual cells to the mundane work cycles, all combining to create an overall sense of hopelessness for those destined to rot away on the Rock. Morris has been placed there because he has escaped from every other prison he's been sent to, and nobody escapes from Alcatraz. He is quickly informed by a fellow inmate that should you even manage to get out of your cell, it's a mile away from land and the cold will kill you before the next prisoner count.

This revelation would crush the souls of most men, but Morris simply sees it as another challenge to overcome and quickly starts to plan a break-out. It will take time however, so he must endure the harshness of prison life in the meantime. Alcatraz is a place of punishment, not rehabilitation, and the quietly sadistic warden, played by Patrick McGoohan, appears to be proud of the prison's reputation of making good prisoners, not citizens. We are gradually introduced to the other inmates: There's the eccentric Litmus (Frank Ronzio), who convinces a new arrival that he is actually Al Capone, artist and amateur botanist 'Doc' Dalton (Roberts Blossom), black librarian English (Paul Benjamin), and eventually Morris' old acquaintances and brothers Clarence (Jack Thibeau) and John Anglin (Fred Ward). Morris quickly makes an enemy in Wolf (Bruce M. Fischer), when he clobbers the would-be rapist for making advances in the shower room. With Wolf waiting impatiently in solitary for revenge and the threat of a cell move looming, Morris steps up his efforts, finding hope in the crumbling concrete around the grille in his cell.

The escape itself is a magnificent, meticulously researched sequence that arrives at the climax, but before that we are ushered into the harsh realities of prison life, and what it takes to survive and maintain your sanity in such brutal surroundings. Siegel skilfully builds dramatic tension in a suffocating, cramped confinement. Alcatraz was no ordinary prison. It was an intricate machine designed to crush the spirits of those serving time, where a luxury could be taken away in an instant for the pettiest of reasons, leaving you with nothing but walls and your thoughts. Siegel doesn't necessarily side with the prisoners - with one exception, they all certainly deserve to be locked up - but he is keen to point out that such mental abuse doesn't do anybody, especially society, any good. This sense of injustice is certainly what seems to be driving Morris, and you'll be willing him on when the date is finally set. The escape is actually relatively straight-forward, but Siegel makes it nail-biting nonetheless. This also fits in with the whole docudrama feel, sticking closely to how it actually went down back in 1962. The ending eerily lets you ponder their fate for yourselves. They were never seen again, nor were their bodies discovered.
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