The Michigan Daily-Tuesday, July 24, 1979-Page 7
'Ecape'from m- indless vi"olenceftAv
By ALISON DONAHUE
As prisons are some of the more violent places in
America, it seems fitting that Clint Eastwood (Hang
'Em High, Dirty Harry, The Enforcer, to name a few),
would choose to make a movie in one. Yet unlike most
of Eastwood's other films, which focus on his charac-
ter's perpetration of many a violent and gory death,
Escape from Alcatraz has aims more sophisticated
than bloodlust. Director Don Siegel has crafted a film
that is as well ordered and free of excess as the prison
itself, yet much less grim. Here Eastwood's character
has as much brains as brawn, and it is his ingenuity, as
well as the script's meticulous attention to details of
the escape plan, that makes the film intriguing.
The movie is based on the true story of the only three
men ever to escape from "The Rock." While the focus
of the film is the method of escape, Siegel begins by
giving us an acute feel for the prison environment. This
serves two purposes; it makes us sympathetic to
anyone who would want to escape, and it makes us ap-
preciate how difficult it is to do so.
ESCAPE'S use of color is one of its most effective
elements in expressing the austerity of the inmates'
surroundings. Lighting is always low, and drab in-
stitutional colors predominate. Siegel's camera often
stands at the entrance of the prison's main hallway,
showing us a hollow gulf of space on either side of
which are tiers of individual cells. The insides of these
cells provide one of the few respites for the eye from all
the bareness, as the prisoners are allowed to decorate
We learn from the prison warden (splendidly played
by Patrick McGoohan), that as far as prisons are con-
cerned Alcatraz is the end of the line. It's the place
where men are sent who tried to escape from other
prisons, or did not behave correctly in them. As the
warden puts it; "They put all the rotten eggs in one
basket." His job is to see to it that "the stink does not
go beyond Alcatraz."
Since the prisoners are supposed to be so in-
corrigible, the main function of Alcatraz is to separate
them from each other. They live a regimented life un-
der the constant supervision of the guards, and always
with the threat of harsh punishment hanging over their
heads. (Those who cause trouble are thrown into dark
empty cells for varying lengths of time.)
TO CRACK "The Rock," you've got to have an in-
fallible escape plan and a lot of luck. Eastwood and his
partners have both, as they conjure up a scheme that is
as ingenious as it is believable. Since the most
pleasurable aspect of the film for me was watching
each new element of the escape plan take shape, I
won't spoil it for others by divulging details; I will just
say that any skeptical feelings I had about the plausi-
bility of the plan were overshadowed by two truisms
the film continually expresses. The first is that any
man who is left sitting idly in a cell can put his mind to
work and create something out of nothing. The second
is that prison guards are not very bright.
ESCAPE is well thought out, but its charac-
terizations are a major flaw; the filmmakers try too
hard to win our sympathy for the convicts (except one'
who is typecast as "the bully"). We never learn why
Eastwood or his partners were sent to Alcatraz, but
most of the cons Eastwood befriends seem to have been
sent there unjustly. A Southern black man is there
because he killed two white men in self defense.
Another prisoner does his time at "The Rock" because
a guard at his former residence had it in for him. And
so on. Then there is "Doc," the artist, who paints a por-
trait of himself wearing a flower because "that's
something inside me even they can't take away."
How did all these nice guys end up in Alcatraz, home
of the country's most hardened criminals? It seems
that they were only put there to be punished by the big
bad warden (he likes to crush flowers).
It's a pity that Siegel felt he had to make the conflict
between prisoners and warden such a clear cut battle
of good vs. evil, for I think the film would have come
closer to reality if its characters had been even a little
less likeable. The film does such an effective job of
showing us how undesirable prison life is that I doubt
this change would have made the convicts unsym-
pathetic characters in our eyes.
For me, this flaw lessens the impact of any statement
the film is trying to make about the reality of prison
life. However, it in no way devalues the overall merit of
the film. Escape from Alcatraz is solidly satisfying en-
Critic's notebook: Rep winners and losers
By JOSHUA PECK
With the Power Center dark until
August 1, and the actors and directors
of the Michigan Repertory Company
free for the week to absorb the foul Art
Fair air, I have eschewed idleness in
favor of mulling over the Repertory
fare and selecting my favorites and
least-favorites of the current season.
The four Rep. shows are
Shakespeare's Much Ado About
Nothing, Alice Childress' Wedding
Band, Noel Coward's Hay Fever, and
O'Neill's Ah, Wilderness. I have given
honorable mention where honorable
mention is due.
BEST SHOW: Hay Fever. All
elements have combined felicitously in
this production of Coward's comedy of
manners. Casting, acting, design, and
sparkling direction put Fever well
ahead of Ah, Wilderness, its closest
WORST SHOW: Wedding Band. Mid-
dling direction and an abominable
script overpower the best efforts of star
Janice Reid, making this one good for
insomnia, but not for much else.
BEST DIRECTOR: Kay Long for
Hay Fever. Long has gone beyond the
ordinary "Brrritish" stereotypes to
pull delightfully unique charac-
terizations out of virtually her whole
WORST DIRECTOR: - Richard
Burgwin for Much Ado About Nothing.
Burgwin, the artistic director of the
company and the only professor direc-
ting, has scarcely made one proper
decision. He makes a farce of the
serious part of the plot while stifling the
merriment of the farcical part
(Dogberry and friends). He has made a
script abundant with life and love
nothing more than a melodramatic
FOR THE acting awards, I have
made a loose, and possibly inaccurate
division between leading and suppor-
ting roles, relying on characters' im-
portance to the plot more than their
time on stage. I have also, in- some
cases, made my judgements on the
basis of cumulative performaces over
the season, rather than one particular
BEST ACTRESS, LEADING
ROLE(S): Janice Reid, for lovely, sen-
sitive work in Much Ado, and for her
heroic attempts to save Wedding Band.
On top of technical acting skills that ex-
cel those of her colleagues, Reid has
bearing and beauty that make her all
the better a Beatrice (Much Ado) or
Julia (Wedding Band).
Honorable mention to Kathy
Badgerow for uproariously batty
behavior as Judith Bliss in Hay Fever.
Possibly the funniest performance of
the whole Theatre Department season,
Reopens August 1-5
for more information
certainly that of the summer.
WORST ACTRESS, LEADING
ROLE: Terryl Hallquist in Much Ado.
Probably not her fault, as she is fine in
Wilderness, marvelous in Hay Fever.
Her characterization is flat here, most
likely, because her director suffers
from a chronic lack of concern.
BEST ACTOR, LEADING ROLE: A
toss-up. John Hallquist as David in Hay
Fever, and Leo McNamara as Nat
Miller in Ah, Wilderness. Hallquist
masterfully portrays the indefatigable
seducer in one of Fever's many
amusing scenes, McNamara lends a
just-perfect bittersweet taste to his
harried Mr. Miller. Honorable mention
to David Manis as McNamara's son in
Wilderness, and to Rhonnie Washington
and Richard Pickren as Benedick and
Don Pedro respectively in Much Ado.
WORST ACTOR, LEADING ROLE:
Michael Morrissey as Claudio in Much
Ado ineffectually drones his way
through a pivotal role.
See OVERVIEW, Page9
5th Avenue at Liberty St. 761-9700
Terly Fifth Forum Theater
JANICE REID and Leo McNamara, Julia and Herman in 'Wedding Band,'
are among the most talented of the Repertory's actors, but their best efforts
still leave the show artificial and unmoving.