Saturday, October 9, 2010

"Escape from Alcatraz:" Clint is busting out all over!

Title: Escape from Alcatraz
Released: 1979
Genre: Prison action
Notable for: Clint's last film with Don Siegel
Coolest thing Clint does: Duh! He escapes from Alcatraz

Clint's only prison movie gets off to an uncomfortable start when he shows his naked ass.

"Jee-zuz!" Brad objected. "No one wants to see Clint's ass. The guy was, like, 50 when he made this movie. Not even 50-year-old women want to see a 50-year-old man's ass."

"Clint probably had an ass-double," Andrew theorized. "I bet that's not even his real ass."

"No way. Clint is too cheap to pay an ass double. Clint likes to show his ass."

"What is wrong with you?" Andrew asked. "Take that back."

Mercifully, the ass exposure ends early. For the rest of the movie, including a shower scene, the audience is spared the sight of middle-aged male butts or genitalia.

"Escape from Alcatraz" is based on a true story and shot on the real Alcatraz Island off San Francisco. Clint must like Alcatraz as scenery, because it was also the site of the climax of the third Dirty Harry movie, "The Enforcer."

Despite visual authenticity, "Escape from Alcatraz" has a phoniness common in prison movies. Nearly all the prisoners are good guys and the prison warden is a sadistic prick who enjoys crushing their beautiful spirits. Yeah, sure. This, we guess, is what they call dramatic license.

Clint plays Frank Morris, ringleader of the only escape from Alcatraz. The movie starts with Morris being transferred, bare ass and all, into Alcatraz from a prison in Atlanta.

Even when playing a real person, Clint stays true to typical form by making his character's background a mystery. All we are told about Morris' life is he expects no visitors. When one prisoner learns Morris does not know his own birthday, he says, "Geez, what kind of childhood did you have?" Clint answers, "Short."

Most of the storyline is predictable from the title alone.

Clint discovers the old concrete of Alcatraz is so crumbly it can be chipped away with a nail file around ventilation shafts. He hatches a plan to climb through the shafts to the roof, then shimmy down and float to freedom on rafts made of raincoats.

Elaborate scheming is needed to fool the guards and the evil warden, and this is the basic tension of the movie. Clint and his guys have several close calls but never get caught. This tension is somewhat defused by the fact the audience knows they will not get caught. But it is still entertaining.

Aside from the warden, the only villain in the movie is a big, hulking creep named Wolf who tries to make Clint his prison bitch. While taking a shower, Clint slugs Wolf in the nuts and jams a bar of soap into his mouth. From then on, Wolf is determined to kill Clint. In another non-surprise, he fails.

At the end of the movie, Clint and two other convicts make it to the ocean, float away and are never seen again. No one knows if the real Morris gang drowned (most likely) or made it to freedom, and the movie leaves that question unanswered, too.

"Escape from Alcatraz" turned out to be the end of one chapter in Clint's career. It was his last film directed by Don Siegel. Except for Sergio Leone, director of Clint's spaghetti westerns, Siegel was the director most important to developing Clint's onscreen persona.

It was a fitting end to their partnership: A film that was tight, entertaining, and not taken seriously by serious movie people.

Clint must have been man enough to know by age 50 that he wanted to aim a little higher, bare ass and all.

Next up: "Bronco Billy."

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