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36 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A POWER-house movie!
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...
Published on 23 Dec 2004 by Syd

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Second disappointment from the legendary Jules Dassin
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...
Published 1 month ago by Rob Simpson


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36 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A POWER-house movie!, 23 Dec 2004
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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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Prison Noir!, 8 Jun 2012
By 
Spike Owen "John Rouse Merriott Chard" (Birmingham, England.) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Brute Force [DVD] [1947] (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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simmering prison explodes under Dassin's direction with an assist by Hume Cronyn, 26 Sep 2014
By 
orvuus (Birmingham, AL USA) - See all my reviews
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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. If you like this, then be sure to see Dassin's other masterpieces, and be sure to watch the stunning blu ray of The Law (1959), which is kind of like a late noir with Gina Lollobrigida and Melina Mercouri setting fire to the town along with Mastroianni, Yves Montand, and Pierre Brasseur.

The image on this blu ray is stunning, as is the sound. There are a number of extras, the most interesting to me of which was the interview with an author of a Burt Lancaster biography on his film noir career.

Essential noir viewing, especially for fans of Dassin and Lancaster.
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dassin's first masterpiece, 10 Nov 2009
This review is from: Brute Force [DVD] [1947] (DVD)
Until this day Jules Dassin's Brute Force stands out as the greatest prison drama ever made. Made in 1947 it is one of the beginning movies of Burt Lancaster which has made before this movie The Killing (1946). Jules Dassin made his debut back in 1942 after working as assistant director to the great Hitch on his earliest American movies. It was for this film that Dassin started to get noticed and made an interesting investment for one of Hollywood's most important producers at that time, Mr. Mark Hellinger. This guy went on producing the following movie Dassin did, Naked City (1948). Unfortunatelly due to heart failure he died never seeing the premiere of Naked City.

An unusual prison movie with strong noir elements like dark charaters, doubtfull pasts of cell members, femme fatale, and so on. This noirish flavour makes it unforgetable to every viewer. The action is full of adrenalyne and never stops to amaze. Although made years after Each Dawn I Die (1937) if am correct for the year, ranks still the first movie of its kind in a top that follows Each Dawn I Die with James Cagney.

After 62 years of its release the movie is as fresh as ever and it is issued for the first time in the UK on DVD.

Phenomenal experience, never to be forgotten, that's Brute Force!
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3.0 out of 5 stars Second disappointment from the legendary Jules Dassin, 9 Nov 2014
By 
Rob Simpson "noframeof" (Middlesbrough, England) - See all my reviews
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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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars About time!, 11 Oct 2009
This review is from: Brute Force [DVD] [1947] (DVD)
One of Burt Lancaster's first films and well worth watching. I have been waiting for this release for some time having seen on TV some years ago.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Brute Force (1947) ... Burt Lancaster ... Criterion Collection (2007)", 12 Dec 2010
By 
J. Lovins "Mr. Jim" (Missouri-USA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
The Criterion Collection presents "BRUTE FORCE" (30 June 1947) (98 min/B&W) (Fully Restored/Dolby Digitally Remastered) -- 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 --- Collins pulled a bank job to raise money to pay for an operation that could possibly get his girl out of a wheelchair --- Fabulous score by composer Miklós Rózsa.

Top flight power performance from Burt --- and the rest is history!

Under the production staff of:
Jules Dassin [Director]
Richard Brooks [Screenwriter]
Robert Patterson [Story]
Jules Buck [Associate Producer].
Mark Hellinger [Producer]
Miklós Rózsa [Original Film Score]
William H. Daniels [Cinematographer]
Edward Curtiss [Film Editor]

BIOS:
1. Jules Dassin [Director]
Date of Birth: 18 December 1911 - Middletown, Connecticut
Date of Death: 31 March 2008 - Athens, Greece

2. Burt Lancaster (aka: Burton Stephen Lancaster)
Date of Birth: 2 November 1913 - New York City, New York
Date of Death: 20 October 1994 - Century City, California

3. Hume Cronyn
Date of Birth: 18 July 1911 - London, Ontario, Canada
Date of Death: 15 June 2003 - Fairfield, Connecticut

4. Charles Bickford
Date of Birth: 1 January 1891 - Cambridge, Massachusetts
Date of Death: 9 November 1967 - Los Angeles, California

the cast includes:
Burt Lancaster ... [Joe Collins]
Hume Cronyn ... [Capt. Munsey]
Charles Bickford ... [Gallagher]
Yvonne De Carlo ... [Gina Ferrara]
Ann Blyth ... [Ruth]
Ella Raines ... [Cora Lister]
Anita Colby ... [Flossie]
Sam Levene ... [Louie Miller]
Jeff Corey ... '[Freshman' Stack]
John Hoyt ... [Spencer]

SPECIAL FEATURES [BONUS]:
1. New, restored high-definition digital transfer
2..Audio commentary by film noir specialists Alain Silver and James Ursini
3. A new interview with Paul Mason, author of Capturing the Media: Prison Discourse in Popular Culture
4. Theatrical trailer
5. Stills gallery
6. Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
7. PLUS: A booklet featuring a new essay by film critic Michael Atkinson, a 1947 profile of producer Mark Hellinger, and rare correspondence between Hellinger and Production Code administrator Joseph Breen over the film's content

Mr. Jim's Ratings:
Quality of Picture & Sound: 5 Stars
Performance: 5 Stars
Story & Screenplay: 5 Stars
Overall: 5 Stars [Original Music, Cinematography & Film Editing]

Total Time: 98 min on DVD ~ Criterion ~ (04/17/2007)
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5.0 out of 5 stars Rarely seen on TV this is a great prison story with many sub-plots, 11 July 2014
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This review is from: Brute Force [DVD] [1947] (DVD)
Readers of my reviews will know that I am particularly fond of the 40's and 50's. Rarely seen on TV this is a great prison story with many sub-plots. Highly recommended.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not a Criterion Collection DVD, 17 Nov 2011
This review is from: Brute Force [DVD] [1947] (DVD)
Great film from the legendary director Jules Dassin. Not one of his best but a gem nevertheless. The picture assigned to this product here indicates that this is a Criterion Collection item. It is not!
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Take a break, 19 Sep 2014
Jules Dassin is best remembered for his seminal heist movie Rififi, which he made in Europe following his Hollywood blacklisting. Before this, in the immediate postwar period, this American director made a series of high-quality noir films on the other side of the pond, one of which was this bold prison break drama from 1947.

The plot focuses on Joe Collins (Burt Lancaster) and the inmates of intimate cell R17. Sick of their ill treatment by the cruel Captain Munsey (Hume Cronyn), and conscious of the impotence of Chief Barnes (Roman Bohnen) as well as the hopelessness of decent-yet-drunk Doctor Walters (Art Smith), they plan to take matters into their own hands, overthrow the governance, and escape.

The film earns its title. This is a brutal, bleak, and violent yarn by the standards of any era. But it was particularly shocking at the time - not least, perhaps, because it sets aside the basic crime-doesn't-pay moral and asks the audience to sympathise wholly with the prisoners and hate the guards. This is achieved by portraying the prisoners as plucky underdogs. No trashy exploitation here, but something closer to the conscientious social outrage of Elia Kazan's On the Waterfront. Lancaster's performance doesn't approach Brando, but the style is similarly smouldering. Repressed rage; the power of the trodden man waiting to be unleashed.

The theme of power is personified by Munsey. "Kindness is actually weakness," is his mantra. Hume Cronyn is gloriously slimy in the role. Munsey is the most complex character, embodying the dangerously contained ambitions of the middle manager. Meanwhile, Doc Walters reckons the prison system is inherently flawed; that men emerge more broken than when they arrived. Then there's Overlord Barnes, weary and anxious and without strategy, responding to mass unrest by threatening to withdraw privileges from all, suppressing the inmates' individuality from the distant comfort of his office. The prison is run by this dysfunctional trio. No wonder a breakout is imminent.

The good guys are the chums of R17. Some are embellished in flashback. There's the tragic story of the man - reminiscent of poor cuckolded George Peatty in Kubrick's The Killing - who steals three grand to buy his materialistic wife a fur coat. Another wound up in the slammer after taking the rap when his wife shot her father dead to save their marriage. It's all melodramatic; all about trouble with women; all great black `n' white storytelling with a few shades of grey. As for Joe, his gal needs an operation to fix her crippled legs, but she's not going for the operation until he's out. We get to see the sentimentality behind the main man's stony façade.

So, R17 is populated by lovable rogues and victims of circumstance. The rawness of Dassin's picture - its relative naturalism for the time - ensures that the setup isn't hopelessly idealised, but it is certainly romanticized, which is something that's matched by the rich aesthetic. The film looks glorious. The external sets are plausibly looming and stark, recalling the Expressionist roots upon which noir was built. The drama is frequently shot from awkward angles, giving the sense of confined spaces and enhancing the releasing power of the flashbacks. It's memory that sets the men free.

Finally, there is genuine tension and excitement in the final breakout sequence. Its violence is earned and its outcome is startling. It's a fittingly intense climax to a film that grips early and tight and doesn't let go. This is persuasive, fierce filmmaking.
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