Escape from Alcatraz (1979)

escapefromalcatraz_1979_poster
Escape from Alcatraz (1979)
  • Time: 112 min
  • Genre: Crime | Drama | History
  • Director: Don Siegel
  • Cast: Clint Eastwood, Patrick McGoohan, Roberts Blossom

Storyline:

No one can escape from Alcatraz, right? Try telling that to lifer Frank Morris (Clint Eastwood). This Donald Siegel-directed nailbiter is a reenactment of Frank Morris’ 1962 attempt to bust himself and two other cons out of The Rock. Eastwood, as Morris, tilts with nasty warden Patrick McGoohan for a while, befriends several fellow prisoners, and picks the guys with whom he’ll make his escape. Among his break-out buddies are the Anglin Brothers (Fred Ward and Jack Thibeau), with whom he’d served in other lockups, and several others who’ve got their own special reasons to despise the sadistic McGoohan. Filmed on location at the newly renovated Alcatraz, “Escape From Alcatraz” was another box-office winner for the Eastwood/Siegel combo.

One review

  • 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.

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