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Birdman of Alcatraz

4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
Price: CDN$ 24.77 & FREE Shipping on orders over CDN$ 25. Details
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John Frankenheimer scored his first success with this, his third theatrical feature and his second collaboration with producer-star Burt Lancaster (they would make five films together all told). Lancaster delivers an angry, brooding performance as real-life criminal Robert Stroud, a violent killer who, while in solitary confinement, became an internationally recognized authority on birds and their diseases. Based on the book by Thomas E. Gaddis, Frankenheimer creates a portrait of a withdrawn, antisocial prisoner who discovers his own potential after reluctantly rescuing a wounded sparrow from a storm and nursing it back to health. Lancaster's quiet portrayal comes from his eyes and restrained body language, earning him his second Oscar nomination. Costars Telly Savalas (as the talkative "neighbor" from the cell next door) and Thelma Ritter (as his controlling mother) were also nominated, but Frankenheimer's sensitive direction draws equally fine performances from Neville Brand, playing against type as the prison guard who slowly befriends Stroud, and Karl Malden as the tough warden whose ideas of confinement and punishment prompted Stroud to follow-up his studies of birds with a treatise on prison reform. This somber, subdued tale offers no truly happy ending, but it does present a powerful portrait of one man's efforts to earn back his dignity and respect in the worst of conditions. --Sean Axmaker

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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars a classic Aug. 4 2013
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
remember seeing this as a child wtih my parents and always loved this movie. it is a real tear jerker
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By Leganto
Finally, after 4 decades, I got to see Birdman of Alcatraz. And a year ago I visited the island for the first time.
This is definitely a high-quality film, with a mixture of fact and artistic license. The rangers at Alcatraz still put emphasis on the dark side of Robert Stroud,and the role played by Burt Lancaster succeeds in offsetting this to a great extent.
Reviewer "silentscott" points out that the rangers have been promoting the idea that the movie says that Stroud had all his birds at Alcatraz, while the fact is that they were at Leavenworth. I got the same impression in my own tour. But actually the movie makes it very clear that the birds were left behind at Leavenworth (fate unstated), and that he had none at Alcatraz. Maybe it's time for the otherwise capable guides on the island to review the film again and see where it does diverge from the truth.
I was a young adult when the movie came out in 1962. Although I didn't get to see it until this past week (July 2004), I still remember the haunting Elmer Bernstein theme song that I would hear on the radio in the early 1960s. I now have that song in my own collection. But I am puzzled that while I watched that movie I did not hear any of the melody that was played on the air. Does anyone have an explanation for that?
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Another Frankenheimer winner June 25 2004
"Birdman of Alcatraz" is another fine movie directed by John Frankenheimer. His next 3 movies were "The Manchurian Candidate", "Seven Days in May", and "The Train". I have seen the first 2 and gave them 5 stars, and I've got "The Train" on order. As is Frankenheimer's style, there is great depth of focus from foreground to background, but his "big head/little head" wide-angle shots are not as pronounced as in "The Manchurian Candidate" or "Seven Days In May".
Burt Lancaster earned an oscar nomination for his role of Robert Stroud, a convicted killer who was sentenced to solitary confinement while awaiting execution. His impending hanging was subsequently commuted, but he did spend over 50 years behind bars, with very little contact with other people and even less with the outside world. The movie presents Stroud in a pretty benevolent light, although in reality he was apparently very strange and disliked by most others.
Originally banned from having nearly any kind of activity as a hobby, Stroud eventually begins to raise sparrows and other birds while imprisoned in Leavenworth prison (he never had any at Alcatraz). Although Stroud only had a few years of grade school education, he teaches himself several languages and many sciences while in prison. As a result of making "home remedies" to treat his birds when they begin to die off, he eventually writes some well-regarded books on bird diseases and their treatment.
The black-and-white movie was released while Stroud was still alive in 1962 but he never saw it. He died of natural causes on November 21, 1963, just one day before president Kennedy was assassinated, and his death went largely unnoticed.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Birdman May 23 2010
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
...If one has not seen the film " the birdman of Alcatraz" do not expect an early version of a Clint Eastwood caper.
If at all accurate, and despite it's dating, the film holds up well, both in the tough guy and romance departments. splendid performances all around. recommended very highly!
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5.0 out of 5 stars A must-have for your dvd collection! Jan. 28 2004
By Dave
Not the most accurate depiction of the "Birdman" Robert Stroud, but this is still one of the best films ever made. Burt Lancaster is incredible and Telly Savales adds a lot as well. Like Cool Hand Luke, this movie is about a prisoner that refused to give in to the system. An amazing prison drama that everyone should see.
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5.0 out of 5 stars slanco Nov. 11 2003
By A Customer
I really think that this is a great anti death penaly movie - It was also a very interesting movie for its time- Burt Lancaster was often known for playing unsympathetic charaters. Some think that Strouds character was portrayed too soft i.e. that he was much more of a psychopath with not one shred of humaness- But that is drama! If you want a totally factual film make a documentary- movie making is notorius for humaninzing bad people to make the charater have more universal appeal and make it easier to connect to the audience.I really think the film is more about how a man could do something quite extraordanary in prison( i.e.) become such an expert on birds under such horrible conditions. Stroud was also a man who would not give in to anyone, a charateristic that I know personally was very appealing to Burt Lancaster. This movie is really well acted and directed, well worth seeing!
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5.0 out of 5 stars excellent film and acting Nov. 11 2003
By A Customer
I think this movie was extremely well directed and acted- Yes Stroud may have been a really lousy guy, a disturbed psychopative killer, but the movie is really more about how Stroud or anyone for the matter could do something with themselves in prison (i.e. become a world authority on birds) under such horrible conditions- I also think it is interesting that Stroud would not give in to anyone an aspect which I personally know was very intriging to Burt Lancaster about Strouds character. As for whether this movie was over dramatized, so what! that is what movies are about , it you want all truth go see a documetary. For movies to have and audience appeal the charater has to be likeable or appealing on some level or its hard to connect- This movie is also a great anti- death penaly movie - this film is well worth seeing and an unusual film for its time!
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Not really factual....
Stroud never kept any birds on Alcatraz and although Lancaster portrayed him as a misunderstood genius to the point where people were writing letters to petition the "kindly old... Read more
Published on Oct. 6 2003
5.0 out of 5 stars Lancaster's tour de force
A compelling story that presents the anti-death penalty view better than any other film. Burt Lancaster's performance is more compelling every time I see this. Read more
Published on Oct. 4 2002 by sherebiah
4.0 out of 5 stars the great classic Birdman of Alcatraz.
Birdman of Alcatraz is a wonderful time piece movie. The black and White filming adds to the dark mood of the plot line. Read more
Published on Aug. 18 2002 by Scott B. Perry
5.0 out of 5 stars One of most enlightening performances on screen ever made...
After spending more than half of his life in solitary, when a convict (sentenced for having killed 2 people) says: "Life is one of the most precious gift and its the duty of... Read more
Published on July 9 2001 by Swagato Banerjee
5.0 out of 5 stars Burt Lancaster: He Had It All
You know that someone is a great film star when he or she can convey great charisma and deliver an A+ performance in a very quiet role. Burt Lancaster was one of these stars. Read more
Published on May 18 2001 by carol irvin
5.0 out of 5 stars Strong Cast
A Strong cast brings the story of Robert Stroud to the screen with style and form.
Lancaster is always on target in films like these.. Read more
Published on March 9 2000 by charles pope
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