An excellent prison drama that focuses on details with relentless precision. The direction
is methodical and as cold as the Alcatraz setting. While some stock prison figures play a
part in Escape from Alcatraz, the main characters dominate the landscape.
Morris and English talk about steel.©Paramount
Frank Morris arrives at
Alcatraz after making his mark with attempted escapes from several other prisons. Alcatraz
is the last stop for incorrigibles like Morris. When Morris sets foot on the Rock, no one
has ever successfully escaped the prison fortress overlooking San Francisco. This is the
story of Morris's determination, but it is also a tale of the inhumanity of the prison
system that paints a relatively sympathetic portrait of the prisoners. To the credit of
Richard Tuggle's screenplay, only the warden stands out as in black and white terms. The
usual suspects are drawn with feeling and stand out as individuals.
The tension mounts in small increments and is aided by the very
fine pacing of director Don Siegel. The veteran director displays a confident hand in
guiding Escape from Alcatraz. The film rarely goes for the cheap melodramatic thrills that
often pigeon-hole prison films. Siegel treats his material in procedural fashion, serving
story and characters with respect. The excellent photography of Bruce Surtees is
comfortable with all the difficult lighting situations. The darker sections are lit with
pinpoint emphasis. Surtees manages some very interesting camera angles that emphasize the
physical structure of the prison. Jerry Fielding's(The Wild Bunch)is understated and used
sparingly. The silent that accompanies much of the film serves to heighten the tension.
Clint Eastwood is first-rate as Frank Morris. Eastwood conducts
himself with power and dignity. His laconic style is well suited to Morris's quiet
determination. Patrick McGoohan plays the Warden with a bit too much zeal for power. Paul
Benjamin adds a nice presence as English, a respected black prisoner.
The widescreen DVD is very sharp. There is some slight edge
enhancement, but it is not intrusive. A few NTSC artifacts creep into the presentation,
but they are minor and well controlled. Though this is a rather monochromatic film vision,
the color is consistent. Saturation is excellent in various lighting conditions. Grain is
the outdoor sequences replicates the feeling of film grain to excellent effect. The DVD
displays an excellent contrast range and the picture packs good impact. The Dolby Digital
2-Channel sound creates enough sense of ambiance in the surrounds to recreate the cold,
hard echo of the prison.
Home Theater Reference System
Laser discs and DVDs are evaluated on the
following current home theater equipment: Stewart 6' x 11' Videomatte 1.33
Gain Screen, 2 Runco 980 Ultra Projectors stacked, Faroudja LD100 Line Doubler, Lexicon
DC1 Surround Processor/Switcher, 2 Pioneeer Elite CLD-97 Laser Disc Players with AC-3
Modification, Sony 7000 DVD Player, Toshiba SD-3006 DVD Player, Total Media Systems
Reference Home Theater Suite, LR Fronts, Center, LR Sides, LR Rears, 2 Velodyne F1500R
Subwoofers, Sunfire Cinema Grand5 Channel Amp, Sunfire 2 Channel Amp, Lexicon RF
Demodulator, Lexicon T-500 System Remote Control, Speaker Wire and Interconnects by
The American Widescreen Museum
The wealth of information about widescreen movies is presented in a intelligent and
easy to understand interface. Color in movies is given a similar treatment.
Robert Harris is part
of the dynamic duo that restored Lawrence of Arabia, Spartacus, My Fair Lady and Vertigo.
Harris rides a white horse into the battle to preserve our film legacy. Click on the
image to read more.
Check out the Movie Poster Archive
for short bios and images of Susan Hayward, Kirk Douglas, Katharine Hepburn and many more.
This month's featured star is John Wayne. The Feature Archive has articles
ranging from Akira
Kurosawa to Blonde
Bimbos and John
Click on the image of The Heistmasters
for an interesting feature on the tough guys that pull off the big jobs.