7.3/10
24,551
116 user 43 critic

Murder in the First (1995)

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.

Director:

Marc Rocco

Writer:

Dan Gordon
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From $2.99 (HD) on Prime Video

ON DISC
2 wins & 2 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Christian Slater ... James Stamphill
Kevin Bacon ... Henri Young
Gary Oldman ... Milton Glenn
Embeth Davidtz ... Mary McCasslin
William H. Macy ... D.A. William McNeil
Stephen Tobolowsky ... Mr. Henkin
Brad Dourif ... Byron Stamphill
R. Lee Ermey ... Judge Clawson
Mia Kirshner ... Adult Rosetta Young
Ben Slack Ben Slack ... Jerry Hoolihan
Stefan Gierasch ... Warden James Humson
Kyra Sedgwick ... Blanche, Hooker
Alex Bookston Alex Bookston ... Alcatraz Doc (as Alexander Bookston)
Richie Allan ... Jury Foreman
Herb Ritts Herb Ritts ... Mike Kelly
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Storyline

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

Taglines:

The trial that brought down Alcatraz See more »

Genres:

Drama | Thriller

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

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

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA | France

Language:

English

Release Date:

20 January 1995 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Asesinato en primer grado See more »

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Box Office

Gross USA:

$17,382,000
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital | Dolby SR

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

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 »

Goofs

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 »

Quotes

[first lines]
Prison Barber: They're coming! Run!
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Crazy Credits

This Film is Inspired by a True Story See more »

Connections

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

Soundtracks

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen!
(uncredited)
Traditional English Christmas, earliest known publication 1833
Sung by Alcatraz wives and children
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User Reviews

Architectural
17 February 2006 | by tedgSee all my reviews

This movie didn't do well, in fact drove a talented filmmaker away from directing.

Its because it has powerful characters and powerful actors that viewers snap to one of the six viewing modes they have and read it as a "character-driven" drama. Others were upset that the story deviates from real events rather drastically.

My own view is that this is one of the very few films we have that features a building as a character. This is a traditional trial form, where conflicting and synthesized realities are understood to exist by ordinary viewers. Usually this form is used to support battling stories, or versions of reality. Powerful characters can exist ("Mockingbird," "Few Good Men"), but they are there only as representatives of conflicting realities.

What makes this so interesting is that it is the building itself that is on trial. This is exploited by Rocco to an extraordinary extent. Fincher tried to take this notion to the next level in "Panic Room," but got fired. Too bad, because it is a cinematic thrill of sorts to see someone try to present a space as a character.

Sure, it is unusual and many viewers thought the man was going crazy with his odd camera angels, his swoops, his unusual blocking. But I ask you to watch this and see how the prison is introduced to us, and the supposed core, its antebellum dungeons. Then see the contrasting "open" space of the courtroom where it is to be tried. Slater's opening statement is an amazing exploration of space with one multi-encircling movement.

Ted's Evaluation -- 3 of 3: Worth watching.


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