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This review originally appeared in issue 14 of THE CINEMA LASER.


Without question, BRUTE FORCE ($50) is one of the best titles to be released on Laserdisc in 1996. This release is another example of how The Roan Group is releasing the kind of obscure, but brilliant films on Laserdisc that the major studios completely ignore. BRUTE FORCE is powerful cinema. This film is a gritty and realistic prison drama which lays bare the prison system of the 1940's, warts and all. Burt Lancaster stars as Joe Collins, a hardened criminal who is determined to escape from prison with the help of his cell mates. The film humanizes these men behind bars through a series of flashbacks, showing each man with the woman in his life.

Life inside of the prison is seen from the prisoners viewpoint, thus allowing the criminals to become the anti-heroes of the film, and the characters with whom the viewer comes to empathize. On the other side of the bars are the correctional officers lead by the sadistic Captain Munsey. Hume Cronyn gives a devastating performance as the soft-spoken, but psychotic Munsey. Cronyn is truly outstanding, he embodies this evil character so perfectly that one tends to forget his greater body of work, which was nothing like this vicious despot. BRUTE FORCE was brilliantly directed by Jules Dassin, who makes this film more realistic and thought provoking than almost anything else that came out of Hollywood during this period. Not only is BRUTE FORCE realistic, it is also entertaining. I sat in my seat for the film's entire running time totally captivated. The only thing that broke this magnificent film's spell, was the side break, which had me racing to turn the disc over.

The Roan Group has done a magnificent job transferring BRUTE FORCE to Laserdisc. The black and white transfer is excellent, and faithfully reproduces William Daniel's outstanding cinematography. The film element selected for the transfer is nearly pristine, with only minor markings. The digitally encoded monaural soundtrack is crisp and clear, and worth amplifying for Miklos Rozsa's score. The Pioneer pressing was quite clean.

The Roan Group has supplemented their release of BRUTE FORCE with a reproduction of the film's press book, a still file, and with a recent interview with director Jules Dassin on the analog tracks. The interview is conducted by Laserdisc producer Cary Roan; Roan recorded his questions in the U.S., Dassin recorded his responses in Greece and the two sections are married for this Laserdisc release. The interview is excellent and informative, not only about BRUTE FORCE, but how Dassin's career took shape, and how he was forced to seek work outside the U.S. because of Hollywood blacklisting.

BRUTE FORCE is an outstanding motion picture and an excellent Laserdisc which every serious film fan will want to add to their Laserdisc collection. Absolutely recommended!


Laserdisc reviews are Copyright 1996 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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