Combustible Celluloid
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With: Clint Eastwood, Patrick McGoohan, Roberts Blossom, Jack Thibeau, Fred Ward, Paul Benjamin, Larry Hankin, Bruce M. Fischer, Frank Ronzio, Fred Stuthman, David Cryer, Madison Arnold, Blair Burrows, Bob Balhatchet, Matthew Locricchio
Written by: Richard Tuggle, based on a book by J. Campbell Bruce
Directed by: Don Siegel
MPAA Rating: PG
Running Time: 111
Date: 22/06/1979

Escape from Alcatraz (1979)

4 Stars (out of 4)

Rolling the Rock

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

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Escape from Alcatraz was the last of five films that Don Siegel directed with Clint Eastwood, and it's the end of an impeccable track record. Oddly like Robert Bresson and Jacques Becker's prison breakout movies, this one is likewise patient and focused on details, though with a few more dramatic and character flourishes thrown in. Eastwood plays Frank Morris, who arrives on The Rock and immediately gets himself in trouble by beating up a "suitor" called "Wolf" (Bruce M. Fischer). Later he discovers a complicated way of escaping and teams up with three other men (including a young Fred Ward) to pull it off. Then he must pull it off before the "Wolf" gets out of solitary and before the warden moves him to a new cell. The prison librarian, called "English" (Paul Benjamin), forms a fascinating, respectful relationship with Morris, and Frank Ronzio provides some warmth as "Litmus," the guy who can get anything (in exchange for your desert). The film shows Siegel at the peak of his skill, though it was his last really good film; he worked on only two more films (Rough Cut and Jinxed), both artistic failures with troubled histories. Screenwriter Richard Tuggle later earned credit for directing Eastwood's Tightrope (1984).

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