Get SF Weekly Newsletters
Pin It

Second Time Around 

Wednesday, Oct 16 1996
"Red Hollywood"
Prison movies are rarely merry romps, but the 1947 drama Brute Force is a particularly ferocious slice of postwar angst. It presents us with a very metaphorical Prison; an existential hellhole from which "nobody ever really escapes." Burt Lancaster is at his most laconic as Joe Collins, who's got a plan that'll send the whole prison population pouring out the front gates. Unfortunately, head prison guard Capt. Munsey knows about it. Collins knows he knows, but won't call it off. "We're all dead anyway," he snarls.

Remember twinkly old Hume Cronyn from Cocoon? His evil Capt. Munsey is a venal little martinet who has studied the Nazi prison camp commandant manual closely, replacing the German accent with a pissy delivery more suited to a supercilious DMV employee. Watch him as he sashays through his rounds, tortures inmates with a rubber hose while Wagner thunders from his record player, and finally gets to machine-gun a yard full of inmates during the violent denouement, a lusty smile on his lips. You'll forget Cocoon in a hurry.

Brute Force plays as part of "Red Hollywood," the Pacific Film Archive's ongoing look at the work of the many screenwriters, directors, and writers who were blacklisted in the McCarthy era. Also of note in the series this week is Robert Rossen and Abraham Polonsky's "folk tale from the Empire City," the boxing-as-metaphor Body and Soul. It, too, bursts with great performances, as well as being a blueprint for Martin Scorsese's Raging Bull. Just think Mozart while watching the savage, shaky-cam boxing scenes, and you'll see what I mean.

Tod Booth

Body and Soul screens Thursday, Oct. 17, at 9:15 p.m., on a double bill with Cry, the Beloved Country (at 7 p.m.). Brute Force screens Saturday, Oct. 19, at 8:50 p.m., with Give Us This Day (at 5 p.m.) and He Ran All the Way (at 7:15 p.m.). All at the Pacific Film Archive, 2625 Durant, Berkeley; call 642-1412.

About The Author

Tod Booth


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Popular Stories

  1. Most Popular Stories
  2. Stories You Missed
  1. Most Popular


  • clipping at Brava Theater Sept. 11
    Sub Pop recording artists 'clipping.' brought their brand of noise-driven experimental hip hop to the closing night of 2016's San Francisco Electronic Music Fest this past Sunday. The packed Brava Theater hosted an initially seated crowd that ended the night jumping and dancing against the front of the stage. The trio performed a set focused on their recently released Sci-Fi Horror concept album, 'Splendor & Misery', then delved into their dancier and more aggressive back catalogue, and recent single 'Wriggle'. Opening performances included local experimental electronic duo 'Tujurikkuja' and computer music artist 'Madalyn Merkey.'"