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Big House; U.S.A. (1955)

Broderick Crawford , Ralph Meeker , Howard W. Koch  |  NR |  DVD
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Broderick Crawford, Ralph Meeker, Charles Bronson
  • Directors: Howard W. Koch
  • Writers: John C. Higgins
  • Producers: Aubrey Schenck
  • Format: NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: MGM
  • DVD Release Date: January 28, 2011
  • Run Time: 82 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B004LB5FA4
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #217,643 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Special Features

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Editorial Reviews

A tough and realistic crime drama unfolds as ruthless convicts (Broderick Crawford, Charles Bronson, Ralph Meeker, Lon Chaney, Jr., and William Talman) execute a successful prison escape to secure $200,000 in hidden ransom money.

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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding March 31, 2011
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
This is in my opinion an exceptionally good movie. The storyline is flawless and most unusual as the climactic scene (kidnapping with a dramatic accidental ending) comes in the first third of the movie. Then follows the (anticlimactic) apprehension, sentencing and the imprisonment of the culprit. He is later forced to participate in a breakout by fellow inmates who are after his ransom money. The movie shows an unusual extent of brutality and moral depravity with a cool detachment (and without gore) - but it serves a purpose. Principally it gives evil a human face and shows that it can appear in "sheep's clothing" so to speak, in an unexpected idyllic setting (national park in the Rocky Mountains). Ralph Meeker is simply brilliant. The same year he starred in the iconic "Kiss me Deadly", but here he impressed me much more as a smooth, suave, calculating and absolutely inscrutable and heartless criminal - a character I will not forget so quickly. Big House U.S.A. is realism at its very best. It shows in a simple and unpretentious way, that evil is human and not some abstract notion out of the fairy tale book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars dvd the big house April 23, 2013
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
great movie with a cast to go along with the script that is unbeatable. I still feel the tragic loss of the little boy.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Extortion and Kidnapping October 24, 2011
Format:DVD
The Big House, USA 1953 film

This is a story about the of kidnapping of a young boy who went missing from his summer camp in a National Park. He is found by a man who takes advantage of the situation. The father gets a ransom note and a jacket, and delivers the cash to a location in Royal Gorge. But the boy is accidentally killed in a fall while trying to escape! After paying the ransom the father reports it to the police. All persons leaving the park are stopped and their cars search. [No warrant?] One man has a pistol, which is banned in a National Park. Barker is taken in for questioning. Some of the ransom money is found hidden in his truck (inside a spare tire). Barker claims he is an extortionist, not a kidnapper. He was convicted and given 1 to 5, with good behavior he could be out in a year. He is tough and cold. Barker is placed with lifers in Cascabel Island prison. He will be carefully watched in prison. One prisoner tries to escape, but things go very wrong! The other prisoners look down on Barker. But one prisoner plans to kidnap Barker to get the ransom money.

An FBI agent finds a connection between Barker and a doctor, and then nurse Evans. He learns a new fact about the spelling in that ransom note! Nurse Evans is questioned by the FBI, and makes a slip. A disturbance in prison attracts attention so a few men can escape. They will swim underwater to a waiting boat. Barker had trouble. They decide to increase the split by eliminating one of the prisoners and make him look like Barker. No gratitude? "Throw him to the sharks." The radio reports Barker's death. But this is a hoax. The gang returns to Royal Gorge for fishing. One ranger calls in this news on a walkie-talkie. The police are prepared, they advance with rifles.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hard As Nails April 12, 2013
Format:DVD
The 1955 Big House, U.S.A. is one of the toughest and most uncompromisingly brutal films of its era. The plot revolves around the kidnapping of the boy of a wealthy businessman who dies, by accident, after which the man who abducted him throws his body over the cliff and proceeds to extort the ransom money anyway. Clever as he is, the kidnapper-extortionist is caught and tried, but since the boy's body was not found and he did not have the money on him, he's sent to prison but not given a death sentence.

While in an Alcatraz-like prison the kidnapper meets up with criminals even harder than he is. By now he has become famous, known in the press as the Iceman. He is universally despised by even the toughest of the inmates but taken under the wing of a senior, more intelligent than most criminal who is planning to make a prison break, and who also plans to take the Iceman with him, so as to retrieve the ransom money. What follows is even more brutal, as there are more deaths, and while not graphic by today's standards, they are none the less violent and unsettling perhaps because so little is actually shown, so much implied.

The film is made in a semi-documentary style popularized by the TV series Dragnet, and even features narration. Whether it's actually based on a true story I cannot say. The narrator says so, but this may simply be tossed in so make the movie feel more real. One of the more intriguing aspects of the film is that the Iceman, cool customer as he is, is good looking, young and, as compared to his fellow inmats, rather refined. A kidnapper and extortionist he may be, he is not, so far as we can tell, a murderer.
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