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Big House U.S.A. [Import]

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Product Details

  • Format: Full Screen, NTSC, Import
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (US and Canada This DVD will probably NOT be viewable in other countries. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • MPAA Rating: UNRATED
  • Studio: MGM Mod
  • Release Date: Jan. 15 2011
  • ASIN: B004LB5FA4
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Product Description

Big House, U.S.A.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 9 reviews
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Outstanding March 31 2011
By Manuel Pestalozzi - Published on
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
This is in my opinion an exceptionally good movie. The storyline is flawless and most unusual as the climactic scene (kidnapping with a dramatic accidental ending) comes in the first third of the movie. Then follows the (anticlimactic) apprehension, sentencing and the imprisonment of the culprit. He is later forced to participate in a breakout by fellow inmates who are after his ransom money. The movie shows an unusual extent of brutality and moral depravity with a cool detachment (and without gore) - but it serves a purpose. Principally it gives evil a human face and shows that it can appear in "sheep's clothing" so to speak, in an unexpected idyllic setting (national park in the Rocky Mountains). Ralph Meeker is simply brilliant. The same year he starred in the iconic "Kiss me Deadly", but here he impressed me much more as a smooth, suave, calculating and absolutely inscrutable and heartless criminal - a character I will not forget so quickly. Big House U.S.A. is realism at its very best. It shows in a simple and unpretentious way, that evil is human and not some abstract notion out of the fairy tale book.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Extortion and Kidnapping Oct. 24 2011
By Acute Observer - Published on
Format: DVD
The Big House, USA 1953 film

This is a story about the of kidnapping of a young boy who went missing from his summer camp in a National Park. He is found by a man who takes advantage of the situation. The father gets a ransom note and a jacket, and delivers the cash to a location in Royal Gorge. But the boy is accidentally killed in a fall while trying to escape! After paying the ransom the father reports it to the police. All persons leaving the park are stopped and their cars search. [No warrant?] One man has a pistol, which is banned in a National Park. Barker is taken in for questioning. Some of the ransom money is found hidden in his truck (inside a spare tire). Barker claims he is an extortionist, not a kidnapper. He was convicted and given 1 to 5, with good behavior he could be out in a year. He is tough and cold. Barker is placed with lifers in Cascabel Island prison. He will be carefully watched in prison. One prisoner tries to escape, but things go very wrong! The other prisoners look down on Barker. But one prisoner plans to kidnap Barker to get the ransom money.

An FBI agent finds a connection between Barker and a doctor, and then nurse Evans. He learns a new fact about the spelling in that ransom note! Nurse Evans is questioned by the FBI, and makes a slip. A disturbance in prison attracts attention so a few men can escape. They will swim underwater to a waiting boat. Barker had trouble. They decide to increase the split by eliminating one of the prisoners and make him look like Barker. No gratitude? "Throw him to the sharks." The radio reports Barker's death. But this is a hoax. The gang returns to Royal Gorge for fishing. One ranger calls in this news on a walkie-talkie. The police are prepared, they advance with rifles. The FBI agent uses an M1 carbine to neutralize a gang member. The two surviving gang members went to the gas chamber. A nurse got a long sentence.

Does the style of this movie reflect a popular TV show of that time? Note how this story places a woman as the brains behind the kidnapping, and old plot gimmick. I wonder if this story is based on a true crime that is now forgotten? You will see an old Lon Chaney Jr. and a young Charles Bronson. Broderick Crawford will later have his TV show ("Highway Patrol"). Was the other prisoner William Talman?
Killers escape the "big house" to retrieve buried ransom money~ 4 STARS~ GREAT plot~~ July 29 2015
By Molly - Published on
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
PLOT: Ruthless killers escape "the big house" (Prison) to go after Kidnapping LOOT that was buried.

Ralph Meeker is a "professional extortionist". this begins when...a boy runs away from his camp in Colorado. He is found by Ralph Meeker who stashes him in an abandoned "tower" in a park. He then demands "ransom" from the boys father. We "witness" the boy fall OFF the rotting tower and die. Meeker tosses him into a gorge to "hide the body"......... He then cleverly arranges for the $200,000 to be dropped off which he carefully "buries." The roadblocks out of the park have him caught when some of the loot is found in his hubcap. He "confessed to the extortion but NOT the kidnapping"... ..... He is sent to an "Alcatraz TYPE" prison. The kingpin of the "Big House" is Rollo (Broadrick Crawford) complete with gang, Charles Bronson and William Talman and Lon Chaney JR. Rollo already has his clever "escape planned" ...and decides to drag along a reluctant Meeker so "he can have his buried kidnap money." The escape is excellent complete with underwater swim. Rollo bumps off Lon Cheney Jr and Bronson for a 'bigger share" of the money. . Crawford, Meeker and Talman are headed out the park to retrieve the buried "ransom money"..... This is an excellent plot by John C. Higgins ...(He Walk by Night) Top notch CAST with Crawford and a very young Charles Bronson. Reed Hadley is the FBI man who is always one step behind the Gang. He also narrates it. The first 30 minute of the movie has the Boy and the kidnap scheme ...and the last hour is the Prison break.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
dvd the big house April 23 2013
By thomas w scharnott - Published on
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
great movie with a cast to go along with the script that is unbeatable. I still feel the tragic loss of the little boy.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Hard As Nails April 12 2013
By Chillerama - Published on
Format: DVD
The 1955 Big House, U.S.A. is one of the toughest and most uncompromisingly brutal films of its era. The plot revolves around the kidnapping of the boy of a wealthy businessman who dies, by accident, after which the man who abducted him throws his body over the cliff and proceeds to extort the ransom money anyway. Clever as he is, the kidnapper-extortionist is caught and tried, but since the boy's body was not found and he did not have the money on him, he's sent to prison but not given a death sentence.

While in an Alcatraz-like prison the kidnapper meets up with criminals even harder than he is. By now he has become famous, known in the press as the Iceman. He is universally despised by even the toughest of the inmates but taken under the wing of a senior, more intelligent than most criminal who is planning to make a prison break, and who also plans to take the Iceman with him, so as to retrieve the ransom money. What follows is even more brutal, as there are more deaths, and while not graphic by today's standards, they are none the less violent and unsettling perhaps because so little is actually shown, so much implied.

The film is made in a semi-documentary style popularized by the TV series Dragnet, and even features narration. Whether it's actually based on a true story I cannot say. The narrator says so, but this may simply be tossed in so make the movie feel more real. One of the more intriguing aspects of the film is that the Iceman, cool customer as he is, is good looking, young and, as compared to his fellow inmats, rather refined. A kidnapper and extortionist he may be, he is not, so far as we can tell, a murderer. There's a moral ambiguity in the latter part of the film as the Iceman comes to seem increasingly sympathetic, and while he's far from a solid citizen he's a far cry from his fellow escapees.

Modestly budgeted, Big House, U.S.A. features several well known actors, many relative unknowns at the time it was released, while others are veteran players: Broderick Crawford, Ralph Meeker, Lon Chaney, Jr., Charles Bronson and William Talman are the main players, and they all give excellent performances. The directing is sharp but not exceptional, the script at times witty, with several good lines and some nice foreshadowing, such as when one character catches a fish, whose size he's proud of, while another takes a good look at it and says "this fish has teeth"! For fans of vintage action pictures this movie is a must see. For what it is, it's flawness.

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