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.
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
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
Put Burt Lancaster, Hume Cronyn, and director Jules Dassin in a prison noir drama, and you've got a classic.
Lancaster played rough, tough roles, usually men with some sympathy underlying their dark sides. Here, he is a convict pitting himself against a sadistic prison guard, Hume Cronyn, playing against type. The film wastes no time, going from a tense beginning to a riveting finish in 98 minutes.
It's in black-and-white and doesn't show blood or special effects, but for those who can appreciate movies that told a story and showed characterization, this is one of the best prison dramas, ranking along side "I Am a Fugitive on a Chain Gang" and "Cool Hand Luke," in its portrayal of desperate men behind bars.
Criterion does its usual excellent job with a 4k blu-ray restoration, which has commentary and other special features. Yes, it has subtitles, which I find particularly helpful to make sure I get all the dialogue. There's more, but see for yourself.