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Classification: PG Note: Actual cover art may differ
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|Main cast:||Burt Lancaster, Hume Cronyn, Charles Bickford, Yvonne De Carlo, Ann Blyth, Ella Raines, Anita Colby, Sam Levene, Jeff Corey, John Hoyt, Jack Overman, Roman Bohnen, Sir Lancelot, Vince Barnett, Jay C. Flippen, Richard Gaines, Frank Puglia, James Bell|
|Synopsis:||For the men of Westgate Penitentiary, life is lived on a knife's edge, ruled by violence and fear in a war fought between the guards and the toughest prisoners. Warden A.J. Barden is a weak man who is powerless compared to the chief guard, Captain Munsey, an ambitious and sadistic petty dictator who uses fear and treachery to control the prisoners. Munsey's arch enemy is the charismatic and discontented prisoner Joe Collins, whose girlfriend is unaware that he is in prison and who refuses to have a life-saving operation unless he is by her side. Joe's desperation and restlessness is shared by his five cellmates, all of whom found themselves in prison either in spite of or thanks to the love of a woman on the outside.|
Criterion's beautiful restored print of Brute Force is accompanied by a small collection of supporting materials, including a commentary track by longtime film noir experts Alain Silver and James Ursini. They give a good brief on the film's history, such as the disagreements between producer Mark Hellinger and director Jules Dassin on the subject of the movie's use of flashbacks--an approach that would break the claustrophobia of the prison sequences and introduce female characters. Hellinger wanted the backstory, Dassin objected, and the producer won; but the point is definitely arguable. Prison-movie specialist Paul Mason gives a useful 15-minute talk, partly on Brute Force and partly on the genre of prison movies. Criterion's booklet has an excellent essay by critic Michael Atkinson, a vintage 1947 profile of the colorful columnist-turned-producer Hellinger, and an intriguing, bitter exchange of letters between Hellinger and Production Code chief Joseph Breen on the subject of the film's censorship problems.
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