Birdman of Alcatraz
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Burt Lancaster earned an oscar nomination for his role of Robert Stroud, a convicted killer who was sentenced to solitary confinement while awaiting execution. His impending hanging was subsequently commuted, but he did spend over 50 years behind bars, with very little contact with other people and even less with the outside world. The movie presents Stroud in a pretty benevolent light, although in reality he was apparently very strange and disliked by most others.
Originally banned from having nearly any kind of activity as a hobby, Stroud eventually begins to raise sparrows and other birds while imprisoned in Leavenworth prison (he never had any at Alcatraz). Although Stroud only had a few years of grade school education, he teaches himself several languages and many sciences while in prison. As a result of making "home remedies" to treat his birds when they begin to die off, he eventually writes some well-regarded books on bird diseases and their treatment.
The black-and-white movie was released while Stroud was still alive in 1962 but he never saw it. He died of natural causes on November 21, 1963, just one day before president Kennedy was assassinated, and his death went largely unnoticed.
Co-starring Karl Malden as the warden, Neville Brand as a guard, and Telly Savalas (oscar nominated) as a fellow immate, it was well-acted through out. The 149 minute film has French and Spanish subtitles, chapters and a trailer.
This intense portrait of a character couldn't be any more opposite from Lancaster's most well known performance as Elmer Gantry, the barnstorming evangelist with earthy appetites. Lancaster was also a very physical actor who liked to move around in a film but he was able to restrain himself beautifully within the confines of this role. One really has to look to find junk roles done by Lancaster because he was very committed to the art and craft of acting, even at this point in his career when he was the most "bankable." Everyone else involved in this film also does very good work but I don't think the project would have seen the light of day without Lancaster's coming on board.
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Stroud is depicted as a mamma's boy gone wrong who will not allow any fellow Leavenworth Penitentiary fellow inmates to look at his mother's picture or mention her name. He is sent to Leavenworth for killing a man in Alaska after the victim had beaten up a prostitute friend of Stroud's. The convict is then sent a hair's breath from the hangman's rope after he kills a prison guard in a rage. The explosion occurs after he has been told he would not be allowed to see his mother, who has journeyed from Alaska to Kansas to visit him.
Thelma Ritter, in a performance for which she received a Best Supporting Actress Academy nomination, battles zealously for her convict son throughout, and when he is sentenced to death she journeys to Washington, D.C. and obtains an appointment with First Lady Edith Wilson. President Wilson commutes Lancaster's sentence to life shortly before the execution is scheduled to occur. The result, however, is that the prisoner will spend the rest of his life in solitary confinement as a result of his hair trigger temper and homicidal propensities.
Lancaster verbally spars for the entire picture with his nemesis, prison warden Karl Malden, although they do achieve something of an understanding by film's end.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
DVD was good. However it was designed to be used in a foreign country. My regular DVD would not play it. My computer did, even then it was not user friendly. Read morePublished 14 days ago by Douglas P. MacPherson
This movie shows redemption; rehabilitation in beautiful form. Although an older film it is very engrossing. Not the horrible violence, prevalent in todays accounts of prison. Read morePublished 1 month ago by E. Collins
I cannot properly evaluate this film as It was purchased for my wife's viewing pleasure. Therefore she would have to be the one to make comment and as she refuses to use the... Read morePublished 4 months ago by William C. Keesee
Enjoyed the movie especially after visiting Alcatraz. Well done.Published 4 months ago by Kristina S.
Better than the film and more informative with a complete historical perspectivePublished 5 months ago by David D Hartley