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In the 29 years of Alcatraz's existence, and despite the strict
measures, 39 captives tried to escape from America's premier
maximum-security prison during its existence... Thirty six of whom
failed... This script is about the other three, of whom nothing is
known... They may have drowned in San Francisco Bay, or they may have
Morris (Clint Eastwood) was a loner, a rebel against society, the
perfect hero that Siegel loves... Lee Marvin in 'The Killers', Steve
McQueen in 'Hell is for Heroes', and Richard Widmark in 'Madigan' were
all similar types in films which he had directed..
In 'Escape From Alcatraz,' Eastwood gives his best screen acting to
date... It is a charismatic performance that is so idiosyncratic,
persuasive, and powerful... Eastwood, gave Morris the rough,
intelligent aspect that is immediately palpable...
The first few minutes of the film consist of Morris being brought by
boat to Alcatraz, inspected by a doctor and thrown into a cell...
Throughout this, Eastwood does not speak... But already the audience
feels it... They know the character... He has been through this
before... He tries to control his mind... He builds a barrier between
himself and his surroundings... He holds back his fear but he's not so
foolish as to appear brave... Behind his impassivity, his mind is
calculating... He is studying everyone... Everyone knows, prison guards
and fellow prisoners alike, that this is not a man to be intimidated
But Siegel wasn't making a film about penal cruelty or miscarriage of
justice or anything like that... He was presenting a meditative study
of the inflexibility of human spirit, with a star strong enough in
himself to join one sequence to the next... Both Siegel and Eastwood
are known for violence, but there's relatively little of it this
This is not to say that Siegel has no interest in character...
Stereotype characters, such as Doc and Litmus, make the film more
entertaining... A further example is the inevitable homosexual Wolf
(Bruce M. Fisher), who points out that Morris is a potential victim but
realizes he has met his match when he approaches him in the showers one
morning and gets three unexpected blows in the groin and a bar of soap
in the mouth for his harassment... Another familiar type of character
is English (Paul Benjamin), the leader of the Black mafia, who sits in
the yard far away from the white inmates... English proves to be a nice
But the biggest stereotype of them all is the cold warden, although
Patrick McGoohan tries as hard as he can to provide Morris with some
individual personality... Apart from the flower-crushing and constant
attention to his nails, he is permitted by the scriptwriter merely to
recite phrases that might have come from the prison handbook: 'No one
has ever escaped from Alcatraz alive. Alcatraz was built to keep all
the rotten eggs in one basket. I was specially chosen to make sure the
stink from that basket doesn't escape.'
But two elements in the film are absolutely real: one is the central
character, which will be considered in a moment, and the other is 'The
Siegel's overwhelming achievement is to send the audience to infamous
prison for two hours... The claustrophobia, the implicit suppression of
any joy, the barbarity of being caged in isolation cells, all these
suffocating atrocities come across with such reality that one
experiences a total sense of relief when the camera moves into the
recreation yard for the clear bright light of every early morning...
Siegel's technique in this respect is unique...
Siegel's film style seems almost a cinematic interpretation of Eastwood
screen persona: lean, clean, and harsh... Here is one example: When the
incorrigible psychopath is out to finish Eastwood, his one chance is in
the exercise yard... When he enters the yard, he is in need for a
weapon... He has none! He slowly advances into the yard toward his
victim... The camera goes down to the man's right hand as he walks...
After a moment, another man puts a knife in that hand... The camera
stays on the hand as he keeps moving... After another moment, another
hand reaches in and grabs the con's arm.... The whole brief sequence is
loaded with surprise and suspense... It is in two words: pure cinema...
Siegel's movie follows the known facts of the escape constantly,
permitting itself only one act of poetic license at the very end...
Throughout the film, Siegel uses a yellow chrysanthemum as a symbol of
'heart', to indicate that although the brutal system may have removed
everything from the inmates save the questionable privilege of
remaining alive, in some men at least their spirit survives...
'Doc', an elderly inmate who has spent twenty years there but who is
permitted to paint and cultivate chrysanthemums, introduces the
Tags for Escape from Alcatraz Full Movie
, Jack Thibeau
, Patrick McGoohan
, Roberts Blossom
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