Customer Reviews


129 Reviews
5 star:
 (92)
4 star:
 (20)
3 star:
 (9)
2 star:
 (4)
1 star:
 (4)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favorable review
The most helpful critical review


33 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Heartrending Prison Drama
This is a remarkable piece of Hollywood filmmaking, one of the best big studio efforts of the 90's and it was so poorly marketed that few have seen - or heard of - this picture.

The too often (and sometimes easily) dismissed Kevin Bacon is here Henri Young, a role as powerfully haunting as any actor could dream of. With an uncannily natural affinity for Henri,...
Published on November 18, 2004 by G P Padillo

versus
9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Truth Would Have Been Better
The performances in this film are gripping. I actually believed in the plight of Henri Young, portrayed by Kevin Bacon. I wanted to be as good a Public Defender (This is what I do for a living) as Christian Slater portrayed in the film (oddly, the character's last name he uses is one of the real-life escapees). The judge, played by R. Lee Ermey, actually reminds of...
Published on December 22, 2002 by Dennis R. Wilkins


‹ Previous | 1 213 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

33 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Heartrending Prison Drama, November 18, 2004
By 
G P Padillo "paolo" (Portland, ME United States) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Murder in the First (DVD)
This is a remarkable piece of Hollywood filmmaking, one of the best big studio efforts of the 90's and it was so poorly marketed that few have seen - or heard of - this picture.

The too often (and sometimes easily) dismissed Kevin Bacon is here Henri Young, a role as powerfully haunting as any actor could dream of. With an uncannily natural affinity for Henri, Bacon finds his way into the marrow of this tortured, downtrodden prisoner. In what could have too easily turned into a over-the-top "Look, Ma, I'm acting!" role, Bacon strikes a balance that is unique and rare. Unafraid of any aspect of Henri it becomes a performance nothing less than astonishing in its honesty.

The first 20 minutes presents us with the naked, filthy animal the system wishes to portray him as Henri. Yet, even here, with little more than a mad scene comprised of grunts, screams and incoherent mumblings about baseball, multiplication tables and The Lord's Prayer, Bacon makes Henri shine beneath the hair and grime introducing us to a pitiable sorrowful man not only wronged by the system, but utterly destroyed then forgotten by it. This is one of those rare performances where the work outshines the actor - I'd forgotten entirely I was even watching an actor.

It's a hard heart that will not be moved by Henri and Bacon should look back at this performance with nothing but pride. (The fact he was not nominated for an Oscar is astonishing as his performance.)

Christian Slater gives one of his best performances as well and Gary Oldman is, (predictably) wonderfully evil as is William H. Macy. The court room scenes fairly crackle, but ultimately the heart and soul of this movie is found in Kevin Bacon's Henri.

Everything else about this production shines - with 30 year old director, Marc Rocco at the helm, giving a strong vision to the entire proceeding. San Francisco looks marvelous and Christopher Young's soundtrack (eerily foreshadowing Kamen's score for "Band of Brothers") adds the final overwhelming touch.

Not to be missed.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good Prison Picture; Bacon Nails His Part Perfectly!, October 29, 2004
By 
David Von Pein (Mooresville, Indiana; USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Murder in the First (DVD)
Based on true-life events, "Murder In The First" premiered in U.S. movie theaters in January 1995 and stars Kevin Bacon as Henri Young, a 28-year-old man who (as depicted in the film) stole five dollars and ended up doing 3-plus years in the solitary "dungeons" of Alcatraz prison in San Francisco in the late 1930s and early 1940s.

Upon looking up some information on the Internet regarding the "real" Henri Young, it seems that the filmmakers of this finely-crafted and well-shot Warner Brothers' drama did, indeed, dish up a liberal dose of "dramatic license" regarding the true events in Mr. Young's life. But, I suppose, this is to be expected from a Hollywood story depicting real-life people and events.

One thing that's been fictionalized for the movie is the brief scene when we find out that Young died while still behind Alcatraz bars. It's never fully explained in the film just exactly HOW Young died while still in prison. I think this should have been more thoroughly spelled out in the movie (even from a "fictionalized" point-of-view).

Evidently, according to info I can gather, Young did NOT die while in prison, and, in fact, might still be alive to this day. Young disappeared after being paroled from a Washington State prison in 1972, after serving additional prison time for another murder. (Sounds like another "D.B. Cooper" type of saga.)

"Artistic filmmaking license" notwithstanding, "Murder In The First" is an excellent piece of motion-picture entertainment, IMO. Bacon is just terrific in his role as the beaten, nearly-savage Young, who was confined to the pitch-black solitary confinement area of Alcatraz for more than 1,000 days before finally being released from the "dungeon".

Gary Oldman and Christian Slater also display their considerable acting chops in this film, along with R. Lee Ermey, who plays the Judge at Young's murder trial. You'll want to slap Ermey silly after a few scenes as the obnoxious "Judge Clawson" here. He's quite effective and humorous (although not altogether believable) as the rather overbearing chief court official.

This film has a classy style to it, with many interesting camera angles and camera movements employed by the movie's brain trust, headed by Director Marc Rocco. I particularly liked the way Rocco moves the camera in circles during the first scene featuring Slater and Bacon, with the camera moving non-stop as it circles completely around Bacon's/(Young's) jail cell. An effective way to present this scene, rather than just "planting" two cameras in the cell and cutting between still shots of the two actors.

This DVD version of "Murder In The First" offers up a dual-sided disc, with a Full-Frame (1.33:1) version on one side, and a nice, crisp-looking Anamorphically-enhanced Widescreen (1.85:1) version on the other side. Colors look rich and well-rendered here, IMO, with many scenes exuding a deliberately-grainier "1940's" look and feel to them.

The sound gets good marks here too. It's not a full-blooded 5.1-channel track utilized for this DVD, but the Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround Stereo soundtrack fills the speakers very nicely nonetheless. There's a good musical score too.

More about this DVD ....................

>> Extra Bonus Material -- None at all.
>> Chapter List? -- Yes; located inside the "Snapper" DVD case (38 total chapter stops included).
>> Languages -- English and French (both in DD 2.0 Surround).
>> Subtitles -- English and French.
>> Region Encoding -- "Region 1".
>> MPAA Rating -- R.

Parting Thoughts ....... 1995's "Murder In The First" is a Grade-A motion picture, serving nicely as a good character study of one Mr. Henri Young, and at the same time doubling as a dandy "courtroom drama", too. A most-worthy 122-minute experience.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars WHERE WAS OSCAR THAT YEAR?, March 1, 2005
By 
This review is from: Murder in the First (DVD)
Having just come off this year's Oscars, one need look no further than MURDER IN THE FIRST to see how the awards are merely an extravagant popularity contest that more often than not misses truly outstanding performances. Kevin Bacon's performance in this powerful film is tremendous and more than worthy of just a nomination, but a winner. Kevin brilliantly captures the person who is Henri Young. Physically, emotionally, Bacon brings a rare depth to a complex and wrongly treated person. Christian Slater, who I have long considered an average performer, also shines in this role as David, the public defender who fights to show the real villain - Alcatraz itself. Gary Oldman is superb as the assistant warden to whom cruelty and inhumanity is as natural as drinking water. Embeth Davidtz, William H. Macy, Kyra Sedgwick (as a hooker who tries to "service" Henri) and even the hammy F. Lee Ermey provide excellent support. To those reviewers who claimed the movie was phoney, poo poo on you. I found myself riveted to the screen and Bacon's performance alone should earn the movie five stars!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great triple feature, July 2, 2010
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
These are three very different movies, but they all have fantastic acting and will keep you engaged throughout. As always, Michael Douglas was outstanding in "A Perfect Murder" and the performances of Gwyneth Paltrow and Viggo Mortensen were excellent. Such a great screenplay and with a number of twists in the plot. If you like action, suspense, crime movies, murder mysteries, revenge with the bad guy finally tripping himself up and being caught by a very intelligent detective you will love it.

In "Murder by Numbers" Sandra Bullock was both the main star and one of the Executive Producers and this was a perfect vehicle to showcase her abilities as an actress--which is why I think she selected it. The two young male actors were so believable as the privileged, bright and bored amoral teens who believed they were smarter than anyone else and could plan and execute the perfect murder and get away with it. Sandra Bullock was the police detective who was both psychologically and physically scared by a vicious attack years earlier but which still haunted her and which she tried to suppress but which still had power over her. Great screenwriting, directing, casting in addition to the acting which was excellent. If you enjoy suspense, detective stories, action and a number of twists in the plot you will be hooked from the start. Hint: everything in the movie is there for a reason although it may be later in the film when the audience understands the significance of what they had seen previously.

"Murder in the First" is supposedly based on a true story the same as "Murder by Numbers" and I don't usually like movies about prisons and prisoners who may be sentenced to the death penalty. The acting by Kevin Bacon who played Henry the teen sent to prison for stealing $5 and who ended up spending three years in solitary confinement and being tortured for an attempted escape from Alcatraz was fantastic. Gary Oldman played the Associate Warden of Alcatraz who was a sadist and felt he could do anything he wanted to the prisoners and who actually ran the prison on a day-to-day basis. Both of these actors turned in academy award quality performances and I found myself completely engrossed in this movie (much to my surprise). I didn't really like the way they ended it but then maybe that was what happened in real life.

If you enjoy thrillers, this triple feature is a bargain at the price. Enjoy!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Possibly Bacon's best, January 2, 2008
This review is from: Murder in the First (DVD)
In what is possibly Kevin Bacon's best performance in a long and varied career, he turns in a remarkable performance as a petty criminal now on trial for murder. Fellow actors Gary Oldman, William H. Macy, and especially Christian Slater, also turn in fine performances.

As a courtroom drama, there are few movies that can compete with this one. Slater, as Bacon's defense attorney, must triumph over what seem like insurmountable odds: everything from his own boss, colleagues, the prison system, the government, and even his own older brother (played by talented actor Brad Douriff), is against him. But in the end he wins the case despite the formidable forces arrayed against him.

You should be aware that the movie takes considerable license with the facts, however. In the movie, Bacon's character is said to be just a petty criminal whose punishment far exceeded his crime by having to spend 1000 days in solitary, and that it was the brutal conditions in Alcatraz that caused him to commit the subsequent murder. In fact. Henry Young (the criminal), was a career criminal and sociopath who had a long history of crime, had already murdered one person, and brutalized another hostage after a bank robbery. He later committed another murder while in prison. So he was not a sympathetic person at all in real life.

Also in the movie, the warden is said to be warden over three prisons, only visiting The Rock 24 times in three years, and so couldn't know what the conditions were like. In fact, there has never been a warden who ran more than one prison. And the warden at Alcatraz lived in a small house only a few feet from the front gate of the prison.

With those facts in mind, though, it's an outstanding movie and one that stands out from the rest of the crowd in the genre of courtroom dramas.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Truth Would Have Been Better, December 22, 2002
By 
Dennis R. Wilkins "denniswilk" (San Bernardino, CA United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Murder in the First (DVD)
The performances in this film are gripping. I actually believed in the plight of Henri Young, portrayed by Kevin Bacon. I wanted to be as good a Public Defender (This is what I do for a living) as Christian Slater portrayed in the film (oddly, the character's last name he uses is one of the real-life escapees). The judge, played by R. Lee Ermey, actually reminds of some of the judges I have been in front of - his iron disipline is that convincing. Then, to my shock, I found out that the truth had been stretched beyond all recognition.
The movie itself deserves at least four stars for the performances, particularly by Bacon, who should have been at least nominated for an Oscar for this film. The DVD must have been made at the beginning of DVD technology. If a director's cut DVD is complete with interviews, historical perspectives (why did the jury do what it did, anyway? I don't believe the Federal Board of Prisons and its smear job of Henri Young any more than I believe the version proffered by the director of this film) and the like then I will certainly buy it. Until then, I recommend that you rent this film, or buy a used copy.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


11 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Gripping True Story..., January 15, 2000
By 
Nathan (Wilmington, DE United States) - See all my reviews
...of the trial the ultimately put Alcatraz out of commision. Kevin Bacon gives one of his finest roles as a man who has spent three torturous years in solitary confinement on Alcatraz, let out for exercise for a half hour per year and viciously tortured and beaten by the Warren.
All of the acting in the movie is good, and the drama and suspense building is masterful. During the movie, you can really feel for and empathize with the characters, and even though its not a cool jail movie like Shawshank Redemption, it is every bit as good, especially in that it is a true story.
This is also an incredibly hard movie to watch at times. When the guy being slashed with a razor, or digging a spoon into a guys throat, or even just sobbing pitifully because his organ isn't working right after three years of malnutritioned hell, this movie has the capability of leaving you wincing in your seat.
This is not a movie to sit back, relax and enjoy, but rather one which you should watch and learn from.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Story of Alcatraz, January 27, 2007
This review is from: Murder in the First (DVD)
Alcatraz was norotious in its day for being an island prison off the coast of San Francisco Bay. A man who spends a year in solitary confinment goes mad enough to kill a fellow inmate. The sad thing is that the convict was a mere petty thief whose nature only hardened when he was sentenced to imprisonment. Christian Slater plays an ambitious public defender in San Francisco who fights for his client in that Matlock kind of way. One of the best scenes in this film are all the shots of San Francisco which create the atmosphere of the times.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Bacon = HAM, March 7, 2012
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Murder in the First (DVD)
MURDER IN THE FIRST (USA/France-1995) alleges to be based on true events. Certainly there was a Henri Young, but the facts of his life vary widely from those in the film, which has him a starving 17-year old who stole five bucks from a grocery store that was also a post office, thus Henri was convicted of a Federal crime. Young in fact was a bank robber who on at least one occasion took hostages. He committed his first murder at age 15 and spent time in two prisons before being transferred to "the Rock."

There were three survivors of the thwarted Alcatraz escape that Young participated in, not two. He was never held in solitary for years, it was a matter of months, nor did he kill Rufus McCain in front of 200 cafeteria witnesses on the day of his release from "the Hole," it was fully a year later and happened in the tailoring shop. Young didn't die of abuse in 1942 but was shipped from prison to prison, held on that first murder conviction, until he skipped parole in '72 and was never heard from again.

Accepting then that the film is a work of pure fiction, it can be examined strictly on its own merits. As entertainment and as a sob story, it works only if one discounts a great deal of overacting. Kevin Bacon as Young is the most egregious scenery-chewer of several. His cartoonish Henri is reminiscent of Dwight Frye's Renfield or Laughton's Hunchback. Bent, hobbled and badly scarred, both physically and emotionally, wild-eyed Kevin sets a high bar that his fellow hams can't quite clear. Gary Oldman as Asst. Warden Glenn comes mighty close, though.

The dangerously sadistic Glenn is unable on the witness stand to secrete his psychotic nature from the jury when Young's attorney James Stamphill (Christian Slater) pokes him with a metaphoric stick of truth. Oldman roars, pours sweat, pops neck veins and appears the monster we've known and hated in previous less-public settings.

Glenn's penal superior, absentee Warden James Humson, is portrayed by Stefan Gierasch as having slipped far into senile dementia. Humson doesn't overemote when provoked by Stamphill perhaps only because he can't remember how. Stephen Tobolowsky, aka "Ned the Head" in GROUNDHOG DAY (1993), has the unenviable task of playing the chief public defender who, without cause, hates underling Stamphill like a canker. He assigns the untested young attorney to Henri's case solely because it's a "no-win" scenario for the defense.

Embeth Davidtz as Stamphill's supervisor and soon-to-be-ex-girlfriend has less to do than Kyra Sedgwick's Blanche the hooker, a gift from Stamphill to his cooperative client. (We're supposed to believe that overpainted Kyra is able to service Henri in a holding cell with guards not too far away.)

R. Lee Ermey as Judge Clawson steams and bellows down at Stamphill from the bench, clearly no friend of the defendant, only until the trial commences. Then he notches it back to half-power and does a legal 180, sustaining the defense on every point, thereby foiling the prosecutorial plans of District Attorney McNeil (William H. Macy), who in high dudgeon and frustration fogs up his owlish spectacles.

Brad Dourif (always nice to see him) is Stamphill's duplicitous older brother, Byron. He too gets one scene to pull out most of the stops. Finally there's Christian Slater's performance. Although matching energy levels with Bacon, Oldman, and Dourif when one-on-one with them, somehow Slater's emotions never become caricature. Our sympathies are always with his Stamphill, and he saves this picture from mediocrity.

Despite some bloated acting, MURDER IN THE FIRST, a costumer that's part prison movie/part courtroom drama, is a worthwhile cinematic diversion and recommended.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars `I got nothin'. I got nobody. I don't need a lawyer, I need a friend.', February 26, 2013
By 
This review is from: Murder in the First (DVD)
It is often interesting how when old movies show up On Demand years after their first release there is a waterfall of response from viewers - almost like the film has been resurrected and given a second life. Such is the case for this 1995 film MURDER IN THE FIRST - there seems to be a more honest evaluation of the film as a film than when it was first released and the public took exception to the `veracity' of the allegedly true story.

According to the reported facts, `Henri Theodore Young (born 1918) was a prisoner at Alcatraz who attempted to escape with four other inmates, Arthur Barker, Dale Stamphill, William Martin, and Rufus McCain. Young became a bank robber and was known for aggressively taking hostages. In 1933, he committed murder. After spending time in prisons in Washington state and Montana, he was sent to the federal prison on Alcatraz Island. On the night of January 13, 1939, Young, with prisoners Rufus McCain, Arthur Barker, Dale Stamphill, and William Martin, attempted to escape. Martin, Young, and McCain surrendered, while Barker and Stamphill refused to surrender and were subsequently shot. Barker eventually died from his injuries. Allegedly, Young and McCain were sentenced to long terms each in solitary confinement, but they were back in the prison's general population within months. A year later, Young killed Rufus McCain by plunging a spoon into his neck; he never revealed his motive.' Those are the `facts' upon which this film was based, but in the film the sequence is different. The film plot follows:

Henri Young (Kevin Bacon) stole five dollars from a post office and ended up going to prison - to the most famous, or infamous, prison of them all: Alcatraz. He tried to escape, failed, and spent three years and two months in solitary confinement - in a dungeon, with no light, no heat and no toilet. Milton Glenn (Gary Oldman), the assistant warden, who was given free reign by his duty-shirking superior, was responsible for Young's treatment. Glenn even took a straight razor and hobbled Young for life. After three years and two months, Young was taken out of solitary confinement and put with the rest of the prisoners. Almost immediately, Young took a spoon and stabbed a fellow prisoner in the neck, killing him. Now, Young is on trial for murder, and if he's convicted he'll go to the gas chamber. An eager and idealistic young attorney, James Stamphill (Christian Slater), is given this impossible case, and argues before a shocked courtroom that Young had a co-conspirator. The true murderer, he says, was Alcatraz.

Mark Rocco directed from the screenplay written by Dan Gordon and the film was photographed by Fred Murphy, the tense musical scoring is by Christopher Young. The story is tight and made credible by the extraordinarily fine performances of Kevin Bacon, Christian Slater, Gary Oldman and a supporting cast that includes Embeth Davidtz, Kyra Sedgwick, Mia Kirshner, William H. Macy, R. Lee Ermey, Stephen Tobolowsky, and Brad Dourif. This is more a character study than reportage of an historical incident and as such the movie succeeds on every level. Grady Harp, February 13
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 213 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

Details

Murder in the First [Blu-ray]
Murder in the First [Blu-ray] by Marc Rocco (Blu-ray - 2012)
$14.97 $8.69
In Stock
Add to cart Add to wishlist
Search these reviews only
Send us feedback How can we make Amazon Customer Reviews better for you? Let us know here.