Raw! Rough! Ruthless!

That’s the tagline for Brute Force, a noirish prison movie Henri and Rufus would like, given their, um, experience. It was directed by Jules Dassin, who died just a few days ago. He was a loyal Red who was run out of Hollywood, but was quite public about his beliefs. He also directed (before he died) Night and the City, Naked City, and A Dream of Passion, an odd 70s movie loosely based on Euripides’ Medea.

Not sure what it is about the clink that I enjoy watching movies about it so much. Birdman of Alcatraz, Escape from Alcatraz, Shawshank Redemption, Papillon, Cook Hand Luke; Brute Force is right up there with the best of them. Burt Lancaster is great of course, but maybe even better is Hume Cronyn as Munsey, the depraved prison guard who tortures the inmates. The stock characters are right off the shelf: Gallagher is like the Morgan Freeman character in Shawshank, Doc Walters drinks because he can’t face the reality of life as a prison doctor, the warden is weak and ineffective … it’s just one great cliche after another, really.

But I liked it. Consider this stirring dialogue:

Joe Collins: I don’t care about everybody else.
Gallagher: That’s cemetery talk.
Joe Collins: Why not, we’re buried, ain’t we? Only thing is, we ain’t dead.

and the great final lines, revealing that prison, or at least this prison movie, is really just a metaphor for Life:

Dr. Walters: Nobody escapes. Nobody ever really escapes.

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