Twilight Time Blu-ray: Birdman of Alcatraz (1962)

Birdman of Alcatraz (1962)

Blu-ray Company Release: Twilight Time

Starring: Betty Field, Edmond O’Brien, Karl Malden, Thelma Ritter, Burt Lancaster, Telly Savalas, Neville Brand

Plot: Robert Stroud, the real-life two-time killer who, during decades in solitary confinement, remade himself as one of the world’s foremost experts on birds—this despite never having finished the third grade. Sensitively directed by John Frankenheimer (The Train, The Manchurian Candidate) and stunningly shot within the basic confines of a prison cell by Burnett Guffey (Bonnie and Clyde), this landmark film features an exquisite score by Elmer Bernstein, available on this Twilight Time release as an isolated track.

My Review and Thoughts:

Film: (4/5)

This is a classic film that never grows old as you watch it over and over again. Solid phenomenal performances and the direction is something that stands out as being memorable. The flow of the film brings the viewer into the story. I have always been fascinated with the true story about the Birdman Robert Stroud. Many people get the story confused because it was not Alcatraz where he kept his pet birds it was Leavenworth State Prison in Kansas. He was moved to Alcatraz and was not allowed to have his birds. His legend and myth like persona has created many false realities but each of those realities hold some truths. The story is still one that fascinates the public and it was this ultimate movie that built the persona and fascination. This is a movie I watch about once a year and I was so excited to see it being released by Twilight Time Blu-ray. This is a film that deserves a wonderful outlet so that a new generation can explore and yes become fascinated with. Thankfully Twilight Time has done that.

Directed by the master of cinema that is truly one of the greatest directors of all time. His stamp on cinema with his gifted and masterpiece touch lingers on everything he displayed in his many films. From the amazing Manchurian Candidate to Black Sunday all the way to TV films such as Andersonville and Against the Wall. He was such a gifted performer that brought so much to cinema. I find what is so shocking and truly asinine is that he was never nominated for best Director. Birdman is one of his defining achievements.

Robert Stroud was not a nice man by any means. He was a convicted killer. By the time he was 18 he was a pimp and prostituted women out. He was sentenced to 12 years for manslaughter. In jail he was a ruthless inmate that was dangerous against other inmates and most of all staff. In jail he would kill a jail guard by stabbing him to death. He was convicted of 1st degree murder and was given the death penalty but was overturned and changed to life in prison. It would be his confinement in solitary at Leavenworth that would lead him down the path that popular culture has immortalized him with. There he found a nest of birds in the prison yard. The birds where hurt. He nursed them and took it upon himself to raise them. It would be this incident with the hurt sparrows that would give him a calling. At one time he had over 300 birds he was taking care of. Now Stroud through the prisons warden was able to obtain equipment and research information on birds. Stroud would write books on the Diseases of Canaries which was smuggled out of the prison and published. Stroud would pioneer a lot in the field and he gained great respect for his deeds and love affair with birds. He gained popularity and even made a business out of the situation but it would be this reality that would alter his path. Stroud you can’t forget was a violent man, a criminal and most of all a two time murderer. The idea of selling and raising birds upset a lot of people and plus, it is said, he abused the system with the equipment by making alcohol. He was transferred to Alcatraz where he was not allowed to raise birds or have pets. Before his death, he had been in jail 54 years of his life and might I add, on a disturbing note, 42 of those years had been in solitary confinement. Now I am not here to pass judgment or speak ill of the prison system. What I will say is if there is such a thing as bettering yourself or being rehabilitated, then I feel Stroud is a prime example of that. He was by no-means a saint, but he did better himself and change his ways in his later years. He was diagnosed as a psychopath during his early years and even when sent to Alcatraz the psychologist diagnosed him as a psychopath. One must realize the overall reality of the prison system back then especially Alcatraz.

Icon and cinema legend Burt Lancaster played The Birdman in the film and before the shooting of the film he sit down and talked with Stroud. Lancaster does a fantastic job. He is a legend and a true one of a kind acting master that never grows old in the viewer’s mind as you experience any of his films. Birdman of Alcatraz is a defining role that stands out and has always been one of my favorite performances and most of all characters in cinema. The film is fictionalized from a lot of the truth but the movie does a wonderful job at creating this interesting man and his many deeds in the world of Birds. I have always been a lover of birds. I am a diehard nature lover and Stroud’s legacy and most of all the myth built around him is something I truly find fascinating. He is like a modern day Brothers Grimm fairy tale. He has his dark side and his light side. He was a mean brutal man but also a man that could love something small and peaceful like a bird. On a side note Robert Stroud has been the subject of other films such as the 1980 TV film Alcatraz: The Whole Shocking Story where Art Carney played the role and also Dennis Farina played the character in the 1987 TV film Six against the Rock.

Birdman of Alcatraz was nominated for four Academy Awards. Lancaster was nominated for his phenomenal role as the leading actor. The other stand out performance is by the legend Telly Savalas who also was nominated for Supporting Role. Savalas is a legend of cinema both great and small. He was always able to create characters through his tough and brute no non-sense style of performing. When you look at Savalas you can’t help but think tough. He aced his part in Birdman as he always did in cinema.

The movie was adapted from the book by Thomas E. Gaddis. Now the reality of the film is fictional in many ways such as showcasing Stroud as a mild mannered prisoner. In reality fellow inmates and guards and people that knew him said he was a brute and a vicious person. Lancaster and the book gave a somewhat hero approach to the character like we tend to do with Western outlaws such as Billy the Kid, which in reality they were cold blooded killers and Stroud was no different. I am not here to speak about the truth of the character. I am just here to review the film, and the film is amazing and the acting and direction is brilliant. Loved the film and it’s one of those that stands the test of time as being a classic.

This is a wonderful Blu-ray. Twilight Time gave the film the respect that it deserves. As I have stated it’s a movie that never grows old and it’s something I return to often and now Twilight Time has given me the amazing Blu-ray to experience this classic film in a whole new way. The music, images and everything is 100 percent crafted in excellence. Birdman of Alcatraz shows you the mastery that Twilight Time possess, to please the audience.

Audio/Video: (4/5)

The best the film has ever been at least that I have seen. I own the VHS and the DVD and catch it on the TV every now and then and the Blu-ray looks a 100 percent better then all those. I have no fault with the transfer but I will say small spots of stock footage or grain in minor areas that does not take away anything from the movie. Over all vibrant black and white color and equally wonderful sound. Crisp, clear and beautiful. Twilight Time has done another fantastic job.

VIDEO: 1080p High Definition / 1.66:1
AUDIO: English 1.0 DTS-HD MA
1962 / B & W

Extras: (3/5)

As always the isolated Score is amazing. I really look forward to this extra each time I get a Twilight Time Blu-ray. Also the commentary on this one was a great listen and it’s always interesting to hear film historians talk about a film. It’s in-depth and educational.

Isolated Score Track
Audio Commentary with Film Historians Julie Kirgo, Paul Seydor, and Nick Redman
Original Theatrical Trailer

Liner Notes by Julie Kirgo

Overall Product Rating: (4/5)

A must own Blu-ray that Twilight Time mastered for a new generation. Truly a wonderful film and also a wonderful product that is a true achievement of film in the respect of legendary cinema.

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