Sunday, September 20, 2015

Birdman of Alcatraz (1962)

Director: John Frankenheimer

Writers: Guy Trosper, Thomas E. Gaddis

Composer: Elmer Bernstein

Starring: Burt Lancaster, Karl Malden, Thelma Ritter, Neville Brand, Betty Field, Telly Savalas, Edmond O'Brian, Hugh Marlowe, Whit Bissell, Crahan Denton, James Westerfield

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Now the world will know the story of the most defiant man alive!

Plot: A surly convicted murderer held in permanent isolation redeems himself when he becomes a renowned bird expert.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again?  Probably not.

A while back I got to go to Alcatraz a few times.  It's really, really cool, inside and out, especially if the San Francisco weather is nice and it was.  I learned a lot and I heard from several of the park rangers that much of what happens in this movie is horseshit.  The biggest lie, which started with Gaddis titling his book, is that once Stroud (Lancaster in the film) was transferred to Alcatraz, he was no longer able to have birds with pets or have any contact with animals.  He was also a violent psychopath, something the movie fails to address.  If you watch this picture as pure entertainment with little based in fact then you can enjoy it for what it is.  It's a good film when you leave the baggage behind.  Lancaster gives a quiet performance not unlike many roles you might have seen him in.  The supporting cast is great, especially Neville Brand as the guard Stroud interacts with most often.  He gives the guard, Bull Ransom, 3 dimensions, which is rare in prison films.  I'd probably hold onto the MGM DVD if it had any extras other than the trailer (which is fullscreen) and the film was presented in anamorphic widescreen (it's non-anamorphic).

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