my Movie

Movie Details

Title:   Escape from Alcatraz
Director:   Don Siegel
Year:   1979
Genre:   Prison
Times Seen:   2
Last Seen:   03.03.23

Other Movies Seen By This Director (9)
- The Beguiled
- Charley Varrick
- Coogan's Bluff
- Dirty Harry
- The Lineup
- Madigan
- Private Hell 36
- Riot in Cell Block 11
- Two Mules for Sister Sara

Notes History
Date Viewed Venue Note
03.03.23Internet This Don Siegel marathon ends with his last collaboration with Eastwood, the only movie today that I've seen before, and my favorite.

I've seen this movie a bunch. I remember renting it with the cool poster of Clint's trademark grimace peeking out from a crack in a stone wall, catching it on cable, wherever... it was one of those movies that if you were flipping channels I'd wind up seeing the rest of it. It's the longest movie I watched today but it felt like the shortest. The economy of storytelling here is so on point. I don't know if this is Siegel's best movie but it's definitely my favorite. It's so well crafted. The script is sharp and clear with minimal dialogue, the direction is super tight, conveying everything that makes Alcatraz such an alluring location as well as clearly showing all the process involved with the escape itself. It feels like more than half the movie is just watching dudes do stuff. I'm such a sucker for that when it's done well and this movie is pretty much a text book for it.

Then there's Alcatraz itself. I went on the tour in... probably the early 90s? There's a scene in So I Married an Axe Murderer which kinda summed it up but it was a great tour for a teenager to take, complete with a self-guided walkman headset audio tour. I remember a quote on that tour from someone saying that when the wind was right you could hear voices from the city, like on new years you could hear the celebrations going on and that's what made doing time there even harder. You see that on the film sitting at the top of the yard able to look over the walls at the city beyond but still so far from it. As a kid the novelty of having a prison island was like something out of a comic book or movie like Escape from New York. That it was real was fascinating, along with the logistics of how expensive it was to operate and all that. Plus it was like a super prison where they sent the worst of the worst, so it's like Arkham Asylum or something with the rogue's gallery. You had Al Capone, you had the birdman, you had machine gun kelly, Whitey Bulger, Mickey Cohen. All these gangsters and bank robbers they made movies about.

And it happened. The audio tour went into previous escape attempts and riots including, i believe, a shoot-out in the library, but you can see the cell where one of the guys dug out! I think they have a head there too (or recreation of one). And the movie sticks impressively close to fact there.

I think as I was growing up there was a short burst of prison movies in the late 80s / early 90s. It felt like all the macho actors had to go to jail for something or another, like Tom Selleck in An Innocent Man, Stallone in Lock-Up, then HBO put Kyle MacLachlan in Attica and Sean Penn went to death row and Daniel Day Lewis was a political prisoner or whatever. Kevin Bacon went to court for being in the hole too long (in Alcatraz!), Sleepers had something to do with jail i think? Not to mention Oz! Maybe there's always been a steady stream of prison movies but when I was growing up it felt like a lot, yet all of them couldn't compare to this one. I think many credit Riot in Cell Block 11 as the quintessential prison movie, but I didn't see that till this year! For me it's this one. Either way, Siegel is responsible.

Ok, I've typed enough. Covid movie marathon complete. I'm so glad I could do this. If I won the lottery or ever get to retire I think this is basically what I'm going to do with my time. Even with my christmas break spent watching double features I'm still only like a quarter of the way through all the movies I have ready and waiting. Maybe some day.
04.02.08Netflix Ahh the feeling of an itch finally scratched.

Great stuff. Something about the tight storytelling and location photography always grabs me whenever I see it. I guess this is the first time I've seen it since watching The Prisoner so that adds another layer of richness for me with Patrick McGoohan playing the warden. Definitely like this one a lot.