Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Brute Force


This is one of the better prison escape movies. It’s quite a big production, with huge sets filled with hundreds of extras. It was written by Richard Brooks, who went on to a career as a writer, director, and producer of some great movies. It was directed by Jules Dassin, an underrated guy in my opinion, whose career was interrupted when he had to flee to Europe to avoid being called before Congress by the treasonous HUAC, the House Un-American Activities Committee. He was blacklisted, barred from all the Hollywood Studios. (And lived to be 96 years old, dying in 2008!)
It doesn’t look all that violent today, but in 1947 it was seen as incredibly brutal. From Wiki: Film writer Eddie Muller wrote that “the climax of Brute Force displayed the most harrowing violence ever seen in movie theaters.”
Wow. Looks pretty tame today. There is a great cast of supporting players, and it’s all headed up by Burt Lancaster as the leader of the break-out attempt, and Hume Cronyn as the horrible head guard who aspires to the job of the wimpy, ineffectual warden. He’s very convincingly slimy, tormenting one of his stool pigeons into suicide by telling him he has been confiscating his letters to his girl on the outside, so she thinks he has forgotten her. He also uses a rubber hose in an attempt to find out more about the escape—which he already knows almost everything about—beating the man almost to death. The breakout attempt at the end is very violent, too. The stool pigeon is strapped to the front of a rail car as they roll it toward a machine gun emplacement. All in all, a pretty damn good movie.