Brad S. (Snibot) from DALLAS, TX Reviewed on 2/25/2010...
Great performances by three of the best.
While this is based on a true story, it is very loosely based. The writing however is so good, that the entire movie remains captivating and possible. Direction is outstanding, as all of the actors from the extras to the mains have stand out performances.
This movie has an even more powerful effect after you have been to Alcatraz. I watched the movie before I went, and then again after. It made my tour of Alcatraz more interesting, and brought an even deeper horror to the movie after it was finished. The confinement that I was privileged to was in a group of about 10 in a room with only a hole for a toilet, and about enough light to be what I consider pitch black.
Fantastic film, well worth a spot in your permanent collection.
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Vicki S. from OSAGE BEACH, MO Reviewed on 3/25/2009...
Great performance by Kevin Bacon -- one of his best.
1 of 2 member(s) found this review helpful.
Anne K. Reviewed on 8/8/2008...
This is a great courtroom drama. Based on a true story and heartbreaking. I normally don't feel emotional watching movies but this one made me very upset. Kevin Bacon does a great job portraying this innocent victim. Its a shame that this actually happened to someone... spending 3 years in solitary confienment with no toilet!!! fending off rats and insects for the food scraps they gave him. Its horrible! Not to mention being beaten and tortured by the warden. No wonder he lost his mind.
1 of 1 member(s) found this review helpful.
Heartrending Prison Drama
G P Padillo | Portland, ME United States | 11/18/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a remarkable piece of Hollywood filmmaking, one of the best big studio efforts of the 90's and it was so poorly marketed that few have seen - or heard of - this picture.
The too often (and sometimes easily) dismissed Kevin Bacon is here Henri Young, a role as powerfully haunting as any actor could dream of. With an uncannily natural affinity for Henri, Bacon finds his way into the marrow of this tortured, downtrodden prisoner. In what could have too easily turned into a over-the-top "Look, Ma, I'm acting!" role, Bacon strikes a balance that is unique and rare. Unafraid of any aspect of Henri it becomes a performance nothing less than astonishing in its honesty.
The first 20 minutes presents us with the naked, filthy animal the system wishes to portray him as Henri. Yet, even here, with little more than a mad scene comprised of grunts, screams and incoherent mumblings about baseball, multiplication tables and The Lord's Prayer, Bacon makes Henri shine beneath the hair and grime introducing us to a pitiable sorrowful man not only wronged by the system, but utterly destroyed then forgotten by it. This is one of those rare performances where the work outshines the actor - I'd forgotten entirely I was even watching an actor.
It's a hard heart that will not be moved by Henri and Bacon should look back at this performance with nothing but pride. (The fact he was not nominated for an Oscar is astonishing as his performance.)
Christian Slater gives one of his best performances as well and Gary Oldman is, (predictably) wonderfully evil as is William H. Macy. The court room scenes fairly crackle, but ultimately the heart and soul of this movie is found in Kevin Bacon's Henri.
Everything else about this production shines - with 30 year old director, Marc Rocco at the helm, giving a strong vision to the entire proceeding. San Francisco looks marvelous and Christopher Young's soundtrack (eerily foreshadowing Kamen's score for "Band of Brothers") adds the final overwhelming touch.
Not to be missed.
The Gripping True Story...
Nathan Blumenfeld | Wilmington, DE United States | 01/16/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"...of the trial the ultimately put Alcatraz out of commision. Kevin Bacon gives one of his finest roles as a man who has spent three torturous years in solitary confinement on Alcatraz, let out for exercise for a half hour per year and viciously tortured and beaten by the Warren.All of the acting in the movie is good, and the drama and suspense building is masterful. During the movie, you can really feel for and empathize with the characters, and even though its not a cool jail movie like Shawshank Redemption, it is every bit as good, especially in that it is a true story.This is also an incredibly hard movie to watch at times. When the guy being slashed with a razor, or digging a spoon into a guys throat, or even just sobbing pitifully because his organ isn't working right after three years of malnutritioned hell, this movie has the capability of leaving you wincing in your seat. This is not a movie to sit back, relax and enjoy, but rather one which you should watch and learn from."
WHERE WAS OSCAR THAT YEAR?
Michael Butts | Martinsburg, WV USA | 03/02/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Having just come off this year's Oscars, one need look no further than MURDER IN THE FIRST to see how the awards are merely an extravagant popularity contest that more often than not misses truly outstanding performances. Kevin Bacon's performance in this powerful film is tremendous and more than worthy of just a nomination, but a winner. Kevin brilliantly captures the person who is Henri Young. Physically, emotionally, Bacon brings a rare depth to a complex and wrongly treated person. Christian Slater, who I have long considered an average performer, also shines in this role as David, the public defender who fights to show the real villain - Alcatraz itself. Gary Oldman is superb as the assistant warden to whom cruelty and inhumanity is as natural as drinking water. Embeth Davidtz, William H. Macy, Kyra Sedgwick (as a hooker who tries to "service" Henri) and even the hammy F. Lee Ermey provide excellent support. To those reviewers who claimed the movie was phoney, poo poo on you. I found myself riveted to the screen and Bacon's performance alone should earn the movie five stars!"
Good Prison Picture; Bacon Nails His Part Perfectly!
David Von Pein | Mooresville, Indiana; USA | 10/29/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Based on true-life events, "Murder In The First" premiered in U.S. movie theaters in January 1995 and stars Kevin Bacon as Henri Young, a 28-year-old man who (as depicted in the film) stole five dollars and ended up doing 3-plus years in the solitary "dungeons" of Alcatraz prison in San Francisco in the late 1930s and early 1940s.
Upon looking up some information on the Internet regarding the "real" Henri Young, it seems that the filmmakers of this finely-crafted and well-shot Warner Brothers' drama did, indeed, dish up a liberal dose of "dramatic license" regarding the true events in Mr. Young's life. But, I suppose, this is to be expected from a Hollywood story depicting real-life people and events.
One thing that's been fictionalized for the movie is the brief scene when we find out that Young died while still behind Alcatraz bars. It's never fully explained in the film just exactly HOW Young died while still in prison. I think this should have been more thoroughly spelled out in the movie (even from a "fictionalized" point-of-view).
Evidently, according to info I can gather, Young did NOT die while in prison, and, in fact, might still be alive to this day. Young disappeared after being paroled from a Washington State prison in 1972, after serving additional prison time for another murder. (Sounds like another "D.B. Cooper" type of saga.)
"Artistic filmmaking license" notwithstanding, "Murder In The First" is an excellent piece of motion-picture entertainment, IMO. Bacon is just terrific in his role as the beaten, nearly-savage Young, who was confined to the pitch-black solitary confinement area of Alcatraz for more than 1,000 days before finally being released from the "dungeon".
Gary Oldman and Christian Slater also display their considerable acting chops in this film, along with R. Lee Ermey, who plays the Judge at Young's murder trial. You'll want to slap Ermey silly after a few scenes as the obnoxious "Judge Clawson" here. He's quite effective and humorous (although not altogether believable) as the rather overbearing chief court official.
This film has a classy style to it, with many interesting camera angles and camera movements employed by the movie's brain trust, headed by Director Marc Rocco. I particularly liked the way Rocco moves the camera in circles during the first scene featuring Slater and Bacon, with the camera moving non-stop as it circles completely around Bacon's/(Young's) jail cell. An effective way to present this scene, rather than just "planting" two cameras in the cell and cutting between still shots of the two actors.
This DVD version of "Murder In The First" offers up a dual-sided disc, with a Full-Frame (1.33:1) version on one side, and a nice, crisp-looking Anamorphically-enhanced Widescreen (1.85:1) version on the other side. Colors look rich and well-rendered here, IMO, with many scenes exuding a deliberately-grainier "1940's" look and feel to them.
The sound gets good marks here too. It's not a full-blooded 5.1-channel track utilized for this DVD, but the Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround Stereo soundtrack fills the speakers very nicely nonetheless. There's a good musical score too.
More about this DVD ....................
>> Extra Bonus Material -- None at all. >> Chapter List? -- Yes; located inside the "Snapper" DVD case (38 total chapter stops included). >> Languages -- English and French (both in DD 2.0 Surround). >> Subtitles -- English and French. >> Region Encoding -- "Region 1". >> MPAA Rating -- R.
Parting Thoughts ....... 1995's "Murder In The First" is a Grade-A motion picture, serving nicely as a good character study of one Mr. Henri Young, and at the same time doubling as a dandy "courtroom drama", too. A most-worthy 122-minute experience."