WOW! A slightly noirish prison drama with a surprisingly
explosive climax. It just builds and builds towards its unstoppable
This could actually be the ultimate jailbreak crime drama. It's tautly
directed by Jules Dassin and with great acting from everyone, but
maybe Burt Lancaster in the main role as inmate Joe Collins, which he
underplays wisely, and Hume Cronyn as the extremely unlikeable
Captain Munsey impresses the most. Ha, ha, ha, one of the best bad guys
ever on film and his "unfortunate" ending gives all viewers
sadistic viewing experience beyond the usual, almost to a degree so
you feel ashamed over your primitive cravings.
Hume Cronyn as the brutal Captain Munsey
The Westgate Prison is overcrowded with 6 men cramped
in every cell and even though the prison boss is a relatively mild-mannered
the real boss is the brutal Captain Munsey, and he keeps a hard regiment.
There's hatred and violence about to burst out at any time and
a stool pigeon, one of Munsey's informers, is murdered in an unpleasant
and disturbing scene.
A politician in charge of the prisons wants an even harsher regime and
Munsey has a plan to be the new boss, and a failed prison break
with lots of dead would open up his career opportunities, and also make
him getting rid of some of the more hard-nosed prisoners, the ones
not taking part in his net of informers. By lies and brute force Munsey
keeps a group of stool-pigeons and knows what's going to happen.
This film is certainly a Film Noir with the darkness and desperation.
Joe Collins and the prisoners of cell R17
The background of the prisoners in cell R17 are told
in flashbacks and the famous female actresses Ella Raines and Yvonne
De Carlo can be
seen in these. Joe's fellow inmate Tom wanted to give his wife (Ella
Raines) a fur coat and stole the money from his work and "the soldier,
Robert, stole food during WW2 and gave it to his girlfriend (Yvonne
De Carlo) and her family.
But we never get to know exactly what Joe has been jailed for, maybe
some robbery, and how much time he's doing, even though there's a
flashback also for him. Joe's wife sits in a wheelchair and needs a
cancer operation, but she won't do it if Joe's not there.
So, there's gonna be a jailbreak ....
To cite Phil Lynnot from Thin
Lizzy "Tonight there's gonna be a jailbreak. Somewhere in the town
.... Tonight's there's gonna be trouble.
Some of us won't survive. See the boys and me mean business. Bustin'
out dead or alive". Aaaah, that's a great song, a 1976 rock classic
Ella Raines with her fur (a lovely genre icon and
best known for Robert Siodmak's 1944 The Phantom Lady)
The escape is planned. Through dangerous work in the
drainpipe under unsanitary conditions it's about to happen.
BUT, evil Captain Munsey knows about the upcoming escape attempt AND
... Joe knows that he knows, but still goes through with it.
Which leads to a really intense and explosive ending full of hatred
and violence. Very impressive, but too strong for it's time and criticized.
The Blu-ray in this Blu-ray and DVD 2 disc combo is
presented in fullscreen 1.37:1 and in black & white, with english
audio mono and with
english subtitles. Extras: Burt Lancaster - The Film Noir Years (38
min) by author Kate Buford, theatrical trailer, gallery, reversible
a collectors booklet with texts and pictures. Blu-ray in region B and
DVD in region 2