Sunday, January 9, 2011

Birdman of Alcatraz

Burt Lancaster is a convict sentenced to a lifetime of solitary confinement. Finding a sparrow in the yard one day he eventually becomes a renowned ornithologist. Also starring Karl Malden, Thelma Ritter, Edmond O'Brien and Telly Savalas, directed by John Frankenheimer.

This is one of those films I first saw on tv when I was a kid, automatically giving it a magical quality. It's over 30 years ago, but I still remember some of the scenes from then: the building of the bird cage and the bird pulling the little wagon. The film lasts two and a half hours, so it's possible I never saw the ending. Rewatching the film now, the ending is the weakest part - the whole Alcatraz part. That's the trouble with basing movies on real events, sometimes there's no satisfying third act. If it was fiction, he would probably have been paroled, lived with the woman he married while in jail, and continued his studies of birds. In real life he had to give up the birds and spent the rest of his life behind bars. Despite this, it's a great film, and possibly better on tv than on a big cinema screen.

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