Brute Force [Criterion Collection] [DVD] [1947]

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.
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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


Brute Force
Burt Lancaster had one of his first starring roles in this hard-hitting prison drama. Capt. Munsey (Hume Cronyn) is a cruel, corrupt prison guard who has his own less-than-ethical ways of dealing with inmates, enough so that Joe Collins (Lancaster) -- the toughest inmate in the cell block -- has decided to break out. Collins tries to persuade Gallagher (Charles Bickford), the unofficial leader of the inmates and editor of the prison newspaper, to join him, but Gallagher thinks Collins' plan won't work. However, Collins does have the support of his cellmates, most of whom, like himself, wandered into a life of crime thanks to love and good intentions. Tom Lister (Whit Bissell) was an accountant who altered the books so he could buy his wife a mink coat. Soldier (Howard Duff) fell in love with an Italian girl during World War II and took the rap for her when she murdered her father. Collins pulled a bank job to raise money to pay for an operation that could possibly get his girl out of a wheelchair. And Spencer (John Hoyt) made the mistake of getting involved with a female con artist. After Munsey drives Tom to suicide and prevents Gallagher from obtaining parole, Gallagher joins up with Collins and his men in the escape attempt. Director Jules Dassin would next direct the influential noir drama The Naked City; six years later, he would move to Europe after political blacklisting prevented him from continuing to work in the United States. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi

Cast & Crew

  • Burt Lancaster
    Burt Lancaster - Joe Collins
  • Hume Cronyn
    Hume Cronyn - Capt. Munsey
  • Charles Bickford
    Charles Bickford - Gallagher
  • Yvonne De Carlo
    Yvonne De Carlo - Gina
  • Ann Blyth
    Ann Blyth - Ruth

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