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Brute Force

Brute Force

4.6 3
Director: Jules Dassin,

Cast: Burt Lancaster, Hume Cronyn, Charles Bickford


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Jules Dassin's hard-hitting prison drama Brute Force gets an impressive presentation in this DVD edition from the Criterion Collection. Brute Force has been transferred to disc in its original full-frame aspect ratio of 1.33:1, and the quality is superb, capturing the deep shadows and rich spectrum of grey tones in William Daniels' cinematography. The


Jules Dassin's hard-hitting prison drama Brute Force gets an impressive presentation in this DVD edition from the Criterion Collection. Brute Force has been transferred to disc in its original full-frame aspect ratio of 1.33:1, and the quality is superb, capturing the deep shadows and rich spectrum of grey tones in William Daniels' cinematography. The source materials appear to be in excellent condition, and fans of film noir-style camera work will be delighted with this disc. The audio has been mastered in Dolby Digital Mono, and sounds rich and resonant throughout. The dialogue is in English, with optional English subtitles but no multiple language features. As usual, Criterion have added a fistful of bonus material for this release, including a well-informed commentary track from film historians Alain Silver and James Ursini, an on-camera interview with film critic and prison reform activist Paul Mason as he discusses Brute Force and the prison movie genre, and the film's original theatrical trailer. The disc also comes with a handsome booklet featuring an original essay from Michael Atkinson, a lengthy 1947 Saturday Evening Post piece on producer Mark Hellinger, and correspondence between Hellinger and Joseph Breen, head of the Motion Picture Academy Production Code Office, as they argued over the film's controversial content. Brute Force is an underrated classic of 1940's crime cinema, and this DVD release offers the picture in excellent form; anyone interested in the genre will want to give this a look.

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Michael Costello
Although dismissed by auteur critic Andrew Sarris for its social commentary, Jules Dassin's masterful noir, which more than lives up to its title, is a wildly stylized tour of a prison in which the inmates are running the asylum. Still one of the harshest and grimmest of all noirs, it places a young, magnetic Burt Lancaster in a dungeon-like environment apparently just this side of Transylvania. Contrary to expectation, the prisoners are an amazingly soulful lot, with a dubiously high proportion doing time as a result of what they did for love. And they're models of mental health compared to the staff, which includes a shaky warden, an alcoholic doctor, and Hume Cronyn, as the indelibly fascistic guard, Capt. Munsey. The hounding of a stool pigeon into a steam press by blowtorch-bearing cons is typical of the facility's daily recreation. While some of the speechifying can be tedious, and the filmmakers have clearly loaded the dice in favor of the inmates, the character of Munsey remains a compelling portrait of a grotesquely authoritarian personality. Miklos Rosza's brooding score and William H. Daniels' moody photography are vital elements in the film's impact.

Product Details

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Special Features

New, restored high-definition digital transfer; Audio commentary by film noir specialists Alain Silver and James Ursini; A new interview with Paul Mason, editor of Captured by the Media: Prison Discourse in Popular Culture; Theatrical trailer; Stills gallery; Plus: A new essay by film critic Michael Atkinson, a 1947 profile of producer Mark Hellinger, and rare correspondence between Hellinger and production code administrator Joseph Breen over the film's content

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Burt Lancaster Joe Collins
Hume Cronyn Capt. Munsey
Charles Bickford Gallagher
Yvonne De Carlo Gina
Ann Blyth Ruth
Howard Duff Soldier
Ella Raines Cora
Roman Bohnen Warden Barnes
Howland Chamberlain Gaines
Edmund Cobb Bradley
Anita Colby Flossie
Jeff Corey Freshman
Jay C. Flippen Hodges
Richard Gaines McCollum
John Harmon Roberts
John Hoyt Spencer
Lancelot Calypso
Sam Levene Louie
Charles McGraw Andy
James O'Reare Wilson
Jack Overman Kid Coy
Kenneth Patterson Bronski
Frank Puglia Ferrara
Wally Rose Peary
Art Smith Dr. Walters
Tom Steele Machine Gunner #1
Ray Teal Jackson
Crane Whitley Armed Guard in Drain Pipe
Kenneth MacDonald Actor
Rex Dale Actor
Blanche Obronska Young Girl
Hal Malone Young Inmate
Don McGill Max
Samir Rizkallah Convict's Son
Vince Barnett Mugsy
James Bell Crenshaw
Whit Bissell Tom Lister
Guy Beach Convict Foreman
Alex Frazer Chaplain
Ruth Sanderson Miss Lawrence
Francis McDonald Regan
Virginia Farmer Sadie
Paul Bryar Harry
Glenn Strange Tompkins
Peter Virgo Guard
Al Ferguson Guard
Herbert Heywood Chef
Rex Lease Hearse Driver
Harry Wilson Tyrone, Homely Prisoner
Billy Wayne Prisoner
Frank Marlowe Prisoner
Kippee Valez Visitor
Gene Roth Hoffman
Will Lee Kincaid
Al Hill Plonski
Eddy Chandler Guard
Howard Mitchell Guard

Technical Credits
Jules Dassin Director
Richard Brooks Screenwriter
Jules Buck Associate Producer
Edward A. Curtiss Editor
William H. Daniels Cinematographer
John De Cuir Art Director
Fred Frank Asst. Director
Russell A. Gausman Set Decoration/Design
Jacques Gordon Consultant/advisor
Mark Hellinger Producer
Bernard Herzbrun Art Director
David S. Horsley Special Effects
Rosemary Odell Costumes/Costume Designer
Robert Pritchard Sound/Sound Designer
Miklós Rózsa Score Composer
Bud Westmore Makeup
Charles Wyrick Set Decoration/Design

Scene Index

Disc #1 -- Brute Force
1. Logos/Opening Credits [2:07]
2. "Your Last Look at Frankie" [4:57]
3. "What's Okay?" [1:27]
4. Captain Munsey Visits the Mess Hall [3:30]
5. A Very Important Meeting [5:16]
6. News of Ruth [1:19]
7. "Wilson, 10:30" [5:45]
8. Westgate News [3:12]
9. Flossie [4:25]
10. Infirmary, Movies [2:39]
11. Lister's Wife [5:41]
12. The Warden's Address [1:28]
13. Cell R17 [3:42]
14. Gallagher's Parole [2:23]
15. The Drainpipe [4:07]
16. The Chapel [2:26]
17. "In or Out?" [3:11]
18. Soldier's Tale [3:15]
19. "What Makes You Drunk?" [:35]
20. Ruth [6:27]
21. "I Always Do As I'm Told" [4:25]
22. Louie's Story About the Drainpipe [3:48]
23. Reexamination [5:48]
24. "Ready to Go?" [5:41]
25. Warden Munsey [1:20]
26. 12:15 [2:03]
27. "Why Do They Do It?" [5:07]
28. Color Bars [1:56]
1. Mark Hellinger [2:07]
2. A Unit at Universal [4:57]
3. Lancaster's Suffering [1:27]
4. William Daniels [3:30]
5. Art Smith and the Blacklist [5:16]
6. The Flashbacks [1:19]
7. Fighting the Production Code Office [5:45]
8. Charles Bickford/Richard Brooks [3:12]
9. Dassin's Strengths [4:25]
10. Emphasis on Performance [2:39]
11. "Much More Pathos" [5:41]
12. "Noir Got Away With a Lot" [1:28]
13. Lancaster's Expressionism [3:42]
14. Lancaster as Producer [2:23]
15. Long Takes/Existentialism [4:07]
16. Sacrilege [2:26]
17. Camaraderie in R17 [3:11]
18. Howard Duff/Yvonne de Carlo [3:15]
19. False Values [:35]
20. Metanoir [6:27]
21. Beyond Surface Realism [4:25]
22. Munsey as Fascist [3:48]
23. "This Isn't Going to Turn Out Well" [5:48]
24. Hellinger and the Studios [5:41]
25. The Basis of Dassin's Later Career [1:20]
26. Postwar Filmmaking [2:03]
27. The Greek Chorus [5:07]
28. Color Bars [1:56]


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Brute Force 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
A bleak canvas of highly contrasting shadow and light where the criminals and cops can't always be so easily defined by their moral fiber. Dassin's dark noir about prisoners and the corrupt few who call the shots is a powerful reminder of the stark visual and emotionless, intense styles of the 1940's crime genre. What are these men in prison for? What are they willing to do to get out? Anything, it seems, to get away from the sadistic Munsey, captain of the guard who takes pleasure in the torments of his captives. This is a very important film, in that it takes a very different approach to telling a "prison story". Also, when watching, one can find similarities to "The Shawshank Redemption" as far as the "by now" caricatured prison guards, the feeling of being put away for doing something unworthy of the punishment, the hardening of prison life. But that is where the similarities end. Where "Shawshank" was geared toward an uplifting final act, "Brute Force" stays true to its name throughout. If you are a prison film fan, or a fan of film noir, than this picture is definitely for you.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago