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Murder in the First

1995

R CC

A convict is on trial for murdering a fellow inmate and the young, inexperienced lawyer assigned to him bases his defense on the inhumane treatment at Alcatraz was responsible.

Starring:
Christian Slater, Kevin Bacon
Runtime:
2 hours, 2 minutes

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Product Details

Genres Drama, Thriller
Director Marc Rocco
Starring Christian Slater, Kevin Bacon
Supporting actors Gary Oldman, Embeth Davidtz, William H. Macy, Stephen Tobolowsky, Brad Dourif, R. Lee Ermey, Mia Kirshner, Ben Slack, Stefan Gierasch, Kyra Sedgwick, Alex Bookston, Richie Allan, Herb Ritts, Charles Boswell, David Michael Sterling, Michael Melvin, George Maguire, Nick Scoggin
Studio Warner Bros.
MPAA rating R (Restricted)
Captions and subtitles English Details
Purchase rights Stream instantly Details
Format Amazon Video (streaming online video)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: 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.
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Format: 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.
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Format: 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!
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Format: Amazon Video Verified Purchase
My brother loved this movie so I'm writing this for him. He watched it several times while he was sick stating it was his favorite movie.
He died of a brain tumor last year, this being one of the only movies he could remember.
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
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.
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