Brute Force (1947) Movie Reviews

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Prison Noir!

This is Westgate Penitentiary, the Warden is a weak man, the prison is practically run by the cruel and highly ambitious Captain Munsey. But the prisoners are no walk overs, they deal their own justice to those that don't tow the line, tired and fed up of mistreatment, and fuelled by the Munsey influenced suicide of a popular inmate, the prisoners, led by big Joe Collins, plot a break out, the fear of failure not even an option.

Brute Force is a cracking moody picture directed with innovation by Jules Dassin and starring Burt Lancaster (brilliant as Joe Collins), Hume Cronyn (Munsey), Charles Bickford (Gallagher) and lady support (shown in excellent flashbacks) from Yvonne De Carlo, Ann Blyth, Ella Raines and Anita Colby. We open in the pouring rain at the monolithic gates of Westgate Penitentiary, Dassin's camera looking up at the gate like some foreboding warning, William Daniels black and white photography is stark and making its point, all this as Miklos Rozsa's score thunders in our ears, it's clear that this is going to be a mean and moody prison picture.

So it proves to be, sure all the formula traits that lace most prison films are in here, but Dassin and his team have managed to harness an oppressive feel to put us the viewer within the walls of Westgate as well. This is a bleak place, there are six men to a prison cell, their only chance of staying sane is memories of loved ones and a unified spirit to not be put upon by the vile Munsey, we are privy to everything, we ourselves are part of the furniture. Brute Force thankfully doesn't disappoint with its ending, the tension has been built up perfectly, the mood is set, so when the ending comes it's explosive and a truly fitting finale to what has been a first rate prison melodrama. 9/10