Escape from Alcatraz/B+,B

Paramount/1979/111m/WS 1.85

      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.

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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 Straight Wire. 


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