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Birdman of Alcatraz (1962)

Burt Lancaster , Karl Malden , Charles Crichton , John Frankenheimer  |  NR |  DVD
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (92 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Burt Lancaster, Karl Malden, Thelma Ritter, Neville Brand, Betty Field
  • Directors: Charles Crichton, John Frankenheimer
  • Writers: Guy Trosper, Thomas E. Gaddis
  • Producers: Guy Trosper, Harold Hecht, Stuart Millar
  • Format: Black & White, Closed-captioned, Letterboxed, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
  • Subtitles: Spanish, French
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: MGM (Video & DVD)
  • DVD Release Date: March 6, 2001
  • Run Time: 147 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (92 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000056HED
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #35,459 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Birdman of Alcatraz" on IMDb

Special Features

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Editorial Reviews

How does bitter convict Robert Stroud cope with a lifetime of solitary confinement? The answer, in a sense, comes from abovein the form of a feeble sparrow he finds in the isolation yard. Stroud brings this newfound companion to his cell, nurses it to health and, from that point on, there's no turning back. Despite having only a third-grade education, and no hope of parole, Stroud becomes a renowned ornithologistand achieves a greater sense of freedom and purpose behind prison walls than many in the outside world will ever know. The "finest prison picture ever made" (Variety), this inspirational and compelling classic stars Burt Lancaster in an OscarÂ(r)-nominated* performance as Stroudthe convict who, in his power to heal birds, finds the power to heal himself. *1962: Actor

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
36 of 36 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Another Frankenheimer winner June 25, 2004
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
"Birdman of Alcatraz" is another fine movie directed by John Frankenheimer. His next 3 movies are "The Manchurian Candidate", "Seven Days in May", and "The Train". I have seen them all and rate them 5 stars as well - he makes great movies. As is Frankenheimer's style, there is great depth of focus from foreground to background, but his "big head/little head" wide-angle shots are not as pronounced as in "The Manchurian Candidate" or "Seven Days In May".

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.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Burt Lancaster: He Had It All May 18, 2001
Format:DVD
You know that someone is a great film star when he or she can convey great charisma and deliver an A+ performance in a very quiet role. Burt Lancaster was one of these stars. He wasn't known for quiet roles but if that was what was called for, he could deliver. Lancaster's character, Robert Stroud, was a real criminal who had to find a way to endure long term penal confinement. Today he might become an outsider artist or be attending college classes in prison. Decades ago, when these things were yet unknown to our prison system, he had to be even more improvisational. Thus, he became an expert on birds and their diseases and treatments after a wounded sparrow came to his attention.

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.

Visit my blog with link given on my profile page here or use this phonetically given URL (livingasseniors dot blogspot dot com). Friday's entry will always be weekend entertainment recs from my 5 star Amazon reviews in film, tv, books and music. These are very heavy on buried treasures and hidden gems. My blogspot is published on Monday, Wednesday & Friday.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Critique of Penal System, Great Human Drama January 22, 2005
Format:DVD
Burt Lancaster won an Academy Award nomination and could easily have corralled another Oscar statuette to go with the one he secured two years earlier for his excellent effort in "Elmer Gantry" as he portrayed convicted killer Robert Stroud in "Birdman of Alcatraz." This was also a peak period for the film's director, John Frankenheimer, since in a five-year period beginning with this triumph he also scored big with "Seven Days in May," which also starred Lancaster, along with "The Manchurian Candidate" and "Seconds."

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.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Great movie!
Very good movie. It kept my and my husbands interest the whole show. It was a clean movie made from a true story. I usually don't buy movies any more because of Netflix, etc. Read more
Published 1 month ago by L. A. Coley
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Very interesting story
Published 1 month ago by Music lover
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
great movie
Published 1 month ago by gale
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great movie.Jack
Published 1 month ago by jack
1.0 out of 5 stars Glosses over the real story of Robert Stroud. While ...
Glosses over the real story of Robert Stroud. While the acting is decent as a story of redemption, it is not based on the true story of the real Robert Stroud. Read more
Published 1 month ago by MagicFan!
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Timeless classic!
Published 1 month ago by Kurt Kueffner
5.0 out of 5 stars A must see
True classic- timeless. Love that it was made in period. Very touching.totally didn't matter that it was not in color.
Published 2 months ago by Northern Electrician
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Good movie, even in black and white.
Published 2 months ago by Kenneth D. Thompson
1.0 out of 5 stars Birdman of alcaterz
Couldn't watch it on Prime because my internet speed apparently isn't high enough to stream - ongoing issue for me despite a carrier that has high speed internet. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Edward W Rogers
5.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable prison film
This is a enjoyable prison film unlike other prison movies ,In that it shows a prisoner Burt Lancaster , who cares for and raises canaries in his prison cell . Read more
Published 4 months ago by Jerry G
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