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Summary: At overcrowded Westgate Penitentiary, where violence and fear are the norm and the warden has less power than guards and leading prisoners, the least contented prisoner is tough, single-minded Joe Collins. Most of all, Joe hates chief guard Captain Munsey, a petty dictator who glories in absolute power. After one infraction too many, Joe and his cell-mates are put on the dreaded drain pipe detail; prompting an escape scheme that has every chance of turning into a bloodbath. (imdb)
About as fine a Hollywood Hays Code prison movie as I ever expect to see. All characters are sharply delineated and believably human. A cinephile my age is used to seeing Hume Cronyn as an old man, but here he is quite a (re)discovery as the disgustingly oily villain. He reminds me of Rick Moranis as Dark Helmet
Moments of tense brilliance and a nicely realized aesthetic are undermined by an all-over-the-place narrative hampered by flashbacks. The film a little too easily lets the audience side with the prisoners (as mentioned in other comments, these are the nicest group of inmates ever!). Still, with a performance like Hume Cronyn's and Juels Dassin's style, this is entertaining. It's just not up to the level of the director's best work.
A gritty, industrial kind of film with a not yet so pessimistic Dassin directing in a competent, if perhaps not fully developed way. His signature visual flair is apparent, however, and some of the prison settings really bring out great opportunities for a unique look in this noir. At times the whole thing can get a bit hokey, most notably during some of the romantic flashbacks, but it's still totally worth a look for anyone interested.
Uneven prison noir that's infused with visual style, but promotes it's message rather clumsily. Inmates are never fully realised, with contrived flashbacks and stilted dialogue failing to add depth, love interests awkwardly wedged in. Captain of the guards (Cronyn) scenes of sadistic menacing are great and Lancaster displays presence despite average dialogue. Dassin's lighting and wonderfully staged action scenes are what elevates this, the final confrontation brilliant in it's execution.
Brilliant movie and one of my favourite film noirs. The witty script acts as a great counterpoint to the relentless darkness of the story, and the film makes a strong commentary on the use of futility of brute force whether used as a means of imprisonment or escape.
lancaster is pretty great, i find cronyn's character to be generally unlikeable at the beginning and so is set up badly for the evil person he is made to be at the end. if this movie had more plotting and breaking out time and less flashbacks and down time it would have been pretty good. i dont know about the whole message at the end though, it seems to be saying, "SUBMIT!!!!SUBMIT!!!!"
A very enjoyable, tense prison movie. The ensemble of characters was terrific, each lending his own unique personality to the mix. Especially great was Hume Cronyn. What a memorable character. The scenes of secret planning were great, and the climax was fantastic. I really liked this one.
Pretty good prison genre flick, done with a lot of Dassin's noir style but falters in a few areas. Despite a delightfully evil performance by Hume Cronyn as the sadistic chief guard, the character is rather over-the-top. Also the prisoners are such a nice bunch of guys, one would think that nobody deserves to be incarcerated. The flashbacks to their romantic lives on the outside were really hokey. Overall, however, not a bad movie at all, and easily watchable.
Fun, hard-nosed prison film Dassin. It's at its best when it sticks to the promise of its title - Cronyn is surprisingly great as the deceptively malicious guard, the "prisoner's justice" dealt to rat is an effectively taut and suspenseful scene. When the film wallows in pity for the poor schlubs via melodramatic flashback, it becomes far less compelling - fortunately these do not dominate the film too much. The climax is pretty thrilling, as well.
Somewhat of an odd genre mixture, with the most noirish parts being the awkwardly introduced flashbacks and characters who don't have much depth but still manage to be pretty free of caricatures. To me, though, it all came together so well, especially in the second half, that all of its problems were easily overshadowed.
Despite unevenness in character development and some cringe-worthy flashbacks, this is a a well-constructed, intense, & violent prison flick with a climax that makes you both groan and cheer -- I had no idea I could be so disappointed & satisfied at the same time.
Excellent cast, with especial standouts being Lancaster, Hoyt (who looks surprisingly impressive without a shirt btw) and Bickford. And of course Cronyn, nicely low-key at first, complete with SS portrait and Nazi hat. The backstories actually did work to flesh things out, despite the cumbersome possibilities inherent in such interruptions. The only thing I found a bit fudgy was the warden's sudden resignation.