Shirtless but Not Burt-less: Hunky Lancaster in Jules Dassin’s Crackling Prison Drama Brute Force – 35mm

The Auditorium at Northeastern Illinois University – Building E, 3701 W. Bryn Mawr Ave
General Admission: $5 • NEIU Students: $2

05 Brute Force 600
Wednesday, July 6 @ 7:30 PM
Directed by Jules Dassin • 1947
Is America a nation of laws or a fragile society held together by little more than brute force? The elemental prison backdrop of Brute Force serves as a springboard for an incendiary examination of the postwar American psyche in this grisly thriller. The work of newspaperman-turned-producer Mark Hellinger and a raft of Communists and leftist fellow travelers (director Jules Dassin, screenwriter Richard Brooks, one-man Calypsonian chorus Sir Lancelot, supporting players Art Smith and Roman Bohnen), Brute Force drills down to sociological basics: exploited prisoners, a quasi-fascist jailer, ineffectual civilian control, a none-too-subtle drainpipe to nowhere.  Sweaty, frequently shirtless prole Burt Lancaster and the other inmates of Cell R17 plot an improbable escape, their efforts legitimized by the participation of model prisoner Charles Bickford and punched up by patriotic memories of wartime exploits. Standing in their way is Hume Cronyn, a politically ambitious enforcer who cleans his gun with a t-shirt and stages Wagner-scored torture sessions like a Nazi wannabe. Scarcely softened by the domestic flashbacks transparently inserted to make the movie more palatable to women, Brute Force still packs a wallop. (KW)
98 min • Mark Hellinger Productions • 35mm from NWCFS Collections, permission Upcoast Film
Film Stock: Eastman (1956)

Preceded by:  Jules Dassin trailer reel

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