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4.4 out of 5 stars30
4.4 out of 5 stars
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on 23 December 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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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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on 10 November 2009
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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Another brilliant release from Arrow, and what a great film?.

Now the Blu-ray quality is good in parts but over all not the best I have seen from a black & white film, it gets a 3/5 from me.

You get two discs and a great booklet with information about the film, plus a nice revisable sleeve and bonus features.

The film ratio is in 1.37:1, and the Audio is in Mono 1.0.

Their are Subtitles: English SDH
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 12 December 2010
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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on 11 October 2009
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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on 31 May 2015
One of the great Burt Lancaster movies as he emerged as leading man. Very male dominated movie with the female partners and key players only seen in retrospect or as objects of hope and redemption if they can break out. Good characterisation and motivation and a great baddie as head of the guards, Hume Cronin is in great form as a man with small man syndrome and sadistic tendencies.
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on 3 June 2015
Thoroughly enjoyable prison drama that has all the ingredients of a classic film-rebellious prisoners,a brutal prison officer,a traitor among the inmates and an escape plan.Add to that the great Burt Lancaster in top form,a top quality script and masterful direction from Jules Dassin and u have not just a brilliant prison film but a classic of any genre or any era.5/5 for this gem
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on 26 September 2014
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 DVD 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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on 22 February 2015
Didn't live up to my personal expectation. Just didn't seem to have that 'ooomph' I was hoping for from the genre - maybe due to its vintage. But good picture quality though.
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