Brute Force 1947

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(23) IMDb 7.7/10
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Burt Lancaster had one of his first starring roles in this hard-hitting prison drama. Capt. Munsey (Hume Cronyn) is a cruel, corrupt prison guard who has his own less-than-ethical ways of dealing with inmates, enough so that Joe Collins (Lancaster) -- the toughest inmate in the cell block -- has decided to break out. Collins tries to persuade Gallagher (Charles Bickford), the unofficial leader of the inmates and editor of the prison newspaper, to join him, but Gallagher thinks Collins' plan won't work. However, Collins does have the support of his cellmates, most of whom, like himself, wandered into a life of crime thanks to love and good intentions. Tom Lister (Whit Bissell) was an accountant who altered the books so he could buy his wife a mink coat. Soldier (Howard Duff) fell in love with an Italian girl during World War II and took the rap for her when she murdered her father. Collins pulled a bank job to raise money to pay for an operation that could possibly get his girl out of a wheelchair. And Spencer (John Hoyt) made the mistake of getting involved with a female con artist. After Munsey drives Tom to suicide and prevents Gallagher from obtaining parole, Gallagher joins up with Collins and his men in the escape attempt. Director Jules Dassin would next direct the influential noir drama The Naked City; six years later, he would move to Europe after political blacklisting prevented him from continuing to work in the United States.~ Mark Deming, All Movie Guide

Starring:
Jeff Corey, Ann Blyth
Rental Formats:
DVD, Blu-ray

Product Details

Discs
  • Feature ages_12_and_over
Runtime 1 hour 38 minutes
Starring Jeff Corey, Ann Blyth, Sam Levene, Hume Cronyn, Jack Overman, Anita Colby, Yvonne De Carlo, Burt Lancaster, Ella Raines, Charles Bickford, John Hoyt
Director Jules Dassin
Genres Thriller
Studio ARROW FILMS
Rental release 13 July 2009
Main languages English
Discs
  • Feature ages_12_and_over
Runtime 1 hour 38 minutes
Starring Jeff Corey, Ann Blyth, Sam Levene, Hume Cronyn, Jack Overman, Anita Colby, Yvonne De Carlo, Burt Lancaster, Ella Raines, Charles Bickford, John Hoyt
Director Jules Dassin
Genres Thriller
Studio Arrow Films
Rental release 15 September 2014
Main languages English
Hearing impaired subtitles English

Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

37 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Syd on 23 Dec. 2004
Format: DVD
An early Burt Lancaster film, and what a film! i remember watching this when i was 11 years old, as it was one of my fathers favourites.
It tells the story of 6 inmates (of cell R17) serving time in a harsh prison, made all the more worse by a sadistic prison warden called Capt.Munsey, who beats the prisoners with "Brute Force" to get them to do his will. each of the prisoners of cell R17 has his story to tell of the "Outside" where life with their respective wives/girlfriends did them a bad turn, hence ending up in prison, and wanting to get back on the "outside"
The ending of the film is quite explosive and dramatic.
A must for film buffs, and an often overlooked Burt Lancaster gem!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Spike Owen TOP 500 REVIEWER on 8 Jun. 2012
Format: DVD
This is Westgate Penitentiary, the Warden is a weak man, the prison is practically run by the cruel and highly ambitious Captain Munsey. But the prisoners are no walk overs, they deal their own justice to those that don't tow the line, tired and fed up of mistreatment, and fuelled by the Munsey influenced suicide of a popular inmate, the prisoners, led by big Joe Collins, plot a break out, the fear of failure not even an option.

Brute Force is a cracking moody picture directed with innovation by Jules Dassin and starring Burt Lancaster (brilliant as Joe Collins), Hume Cronyn (Munsey), Charles Bickford (Gallagher) and lady support (shown in excellent flashbacks) from Yvonne De Carlo, Ann Blyth, Ella Raines and Anita Colby. We open in the pouring rain at the monolithic gates of Westgate Penitentiary, Dassin's camera looking up at the gate like some foreboding warning, William Daniels black and white photography is stark and making its point, all this as Miklos Rozsa's score thunders in our ears, it's clear that this is going to be a mean and moody prison picture.

So it proves to be, sure all the formula traits that lace most prison films are in here, but Dassin and his team have managed to harness an oppressive feel to put us the viewer within the walls of Westgate as well. This is a bleak place, there are six men to a prison cell, their only chance of staying sane is memories of loved ones and a unified spirit to not be put upon by the vile Munsey, we are privy to everything, we ourselves are part of the furniture. Brute Force thankfully doesn't disappoint with its ending, the tension has been built up perfectly, the mood is set, so when the ending comes it's explosive and a truly fitting finale to what has been a first rate prison melodrama. 9/10
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By orvuus on 26 Sept. 2014
Format: Blu-ray Verified Purchase
Riveting performances by Burt Lancaster and Hume Cronyn make this grandly dark prison drama by Jules Dassin a winner. Having first seen Dasin's Rififi, the three subsequent films I've seen by him, Naked CIty, Night and the City, and now this, seem like grand slam dramatic film noirs, each darker than the one before. This film is also absolutely stuffed with character actors such as Jeff Corey, Whit Bissell, John Hoyt, and Charles Bickford, as well as actresses (the women on the "outside") seen in flashbacks: Yvonne De Carlo, Ann Blyth, and Ella Raines.

One review I read said this was dated and predictable -- yes, it's dated, precisely because it was one of the first to show a prison drama on this scale, and again it's predictable because it set a standard like only Dassin can. When the warden is challenged by his boss to use more brutal methods, he is faced with doing what he knows to be wrong or to lose his career, and in him we sense another prisoner of a sorts. The captain played by Hume Cronyn is unrecognizable from the later kindly characters Cronyn is often known for -- here he is like Steerpike in Mervyn Peake's Titus Groan series, manipulating people and events so he can take charge. The prison doctor unveils his character to his face and gets the captain to show what he is really like. Like a fire racing to a bonfire this all explodes in the final confrontation. If you find all this predictable, stay away from film noir, because the genre is mostly predictable -- the enjoyment is in the way the dark side of human life is revealed.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Rob Simpson on 9 Nov. 2014
Format: Blu-ray
That's two Jules Dassin films and two disappointments, this and The Naked City. There's good reason for the underwhelming sensation here, the Naked City felt very slight as a crime film which is as intangible a complaint as you could find.

Brute Force sees prisoners Burt Lancaster and Charles Bickford (a double of elderly Joseph Cotten) compete with Hume Cronyn's despotic Captain Munsey. Although too talky by half - as film noir tended to be - Dassin stages an indelible atmosphere of fear and servitude from Munsey's violent outbursts and emotional sabotage. He exists as the prototype to all the authoritarian prison guards that followed in his wake, many of whom he betters thanks to Cronyn playing so wickedly against type. Sticking with the triumphs is the eventual escape attempt which ratchets up the intensity with the quiet confidence of Burt Lancaster's Joe.

As a prison film this is a notable accomplishment on scale and brutality, that wasn't where Brute Force disappoints. The major problem the film faces is the crafting of its backstory. No-one in Cell r17 is in prison because they did something harmful to society; instead they are all hopeless romantics whose love for the women in their lives got them in trouble with the law. It's one-dimensional and for someone of Dassin's stature to trade on juvenile ideals of the 'bad-boy', it derails a film that is regularly mentioned in the same breath as the great prison dramas. Melodrama is all well and good but it only has value in narrative that warrants it, for Brute Force it’s the single difference between the film working and being suffocated by sentimentality. Personally, anyway.

Guess it’s up Rififi to save Jules Dassin for me, hopefully that one lives up its reputation.
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