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Friday, October 15, 2021

Brute Force (1947) [UK] Blu-ray Review


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The Film



Before being blacklisted and having to leave Hollywood to find work in Europe, director Jules Dassin directed two gritty, pulp-infused film noir crime dramas, Brute Force and the classic The Naked City.

Brute Force would give a young and chiseled Burt Lancaster one of his first starring roles in what is straight up, hardboiled look at men behind bars and their attempt to escape. Hume Cronyn plays the sadistic and corrupt Capt. Munsey who revels in his ability to abuse and punish the inmates for breaking the rules, even as the gentler warden objects to his hardhanded methods. Lancaster plays Joe Collins, the toughest inmate in his cellblock who begins to plan an escape. He first tries to enlist veteran inmate and unofficial representative to the warded Gallagher (Charles Bickford) who refuses, believing his plan a fool’s errand. Despite this, Joe gains support among his fellow inmates, all of whom ended up on the inside due to bad choices involving their women on the outside. Tom Lister (Whit Bissell) was an accountant drowning in debt who embezzled money so he could buy his wife a mink coat and keep her from leaving him. Spencer (John Hoyt) pulled a gambling con with a woman, who then conned him out of the money. The one they call “Soldier” fell in love with an Italian woman during World War II and illegally brought her and her American-hating father, army rations. When her father tried to turn him in to the Military Police and she killed him, Soldier took the blame for her. Joe, meanwhile, was involved in a bank heist gone wrong that he was hoping would help him get cash for an operation that would help his girlfriend get out of her wheelchair. Eventually, as Munsey’s plan to push out the warden and take over comes to light, and Gallagher loses his chance at a parole hearing because of it, he joins up with Joe and the other inmates for the breakout plan.

Dassin uses both the claustrophobic setting of the prison cells and the pulp fiction of the flashback vignettes to spin what is a hypnotic tale with violence bubbling right under the surface. It’s one of anguish, despair, and, as the dramatic and violent ending sequence will show, desperation. Finally, the gorgeous cinematography of William H. Daniels (Valley of the Dolls; Cat on a Hot Tin Roof) lends a sense of discomfort, heat, and uneasiness.

Hume Cronyn’s cruel, devilish Capt. Munsey arguably steals the show, but one cannot argue against the magnetism of young Burt Lancaster’s machismo in this noir drama either, especially in the gloriously over-the-top ending as he makes his way to the top of the lookout tower in order to dispense with his antagonist once and for all.

Video Quality



For a film that has a 1947 vintage, one really couldn’t hope for a better looking high definition transfer to Blu-ray than the one provided here by Arrow. The black and white imagery looks stunning, with crisp details and lots of texture in clothing and skin. Contrast is fantastic, offering inky blacks, and bright whites, just as one would want for a film noir like this. If there is one issue, it is that a little bit of wavering brightness can be spotted, and sometimes in the upper righthand corner, a dark shadow of sorts encroaches, but this hardly takes away from the overall high quality of this AVC/1080p encodement.

Audio Quality



The monaural soundtrack, offered in the Blu-ray Disc in LPCM 2.0 (48kHz/24-bit) is more than adequate given its age. Scratchiness isn’t too big an issue and very little problems with pops or hiss occur. The dialogue is completely intelligible and the big, violent ending comes across fine as well.

Supplemental Materials



  • Burt Lancaster: The Film Noir Years (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 00:38:46)
  • Theatrical Trailer (1.37:1; 1080p/24; 00:02:14)
  • Gallery (1080p/24)
  • Reversible sleeve featuring the original poster and newly commissioned artwork by Reinhard Kleist
  • Collector’s booklet containing new writing on the film by Frank Krutnik, author of In a Lonely Street: Film Noir, Genre, Masculinity, and Swell Guy, an obituary of Brute Force’s producer, Mark Hellinger, by its screenwriter, Richard Brooks, illustrated with original stills

The Definitive Word




Brute Force may wear its intentions on its sleeve, so to speak, but that makes it no less enjoyable to watch. The delightfully noir imagery, the gritty prison life drama, and spectacular set pieces, including one where a stool pigeon inmate is surrounded by inmates wielding blowtorches makes for marvelous spectacle.

Additional Screen Captures

[amazon-product region=”uk” tracking_id=”bluraydefinit-21″]B00KHRI1FM[/amazon-product]




















[amazon-product region=”uk” tracking_id=”bluraydefinit-21″]B00KHRI1FM[/amazon-product]


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