EYEWITNESS



Television, Movie and Play Reviews

Reviewed by Cherie Jung

MURDER IN THE FIRST

Starring: Kevin Bacon, Christian Slater, and Gary Oldman

In 1938, Jim Stamphill (Christian Slater) is in his first year of law school at Harvard. At the same time, Henry Young (Kevin Bacon) is experiencing the rehabilitation program at Alcatraz Federal Penitentary in San Francisco, California.

Alcatraz was designed to hold the most vicious criminal types but it was very expensive to maintain the premises and so the prison took in other inmates (incorrigible types) from other over-crowded facilities. Henry Young ended up in prison after stealing $5 to feed his starving sister. He later was moved to Alcatraz to help fill up the prison. While there, he joined in an escape attempt. An unsuccessful escape attempt which landed him in solitary confinement. Confinement in solitary was limited to no more than 19 days. Henry Young spent 3 years there, tortured by the Associate Warden, a menacing man played by Gary Oldman.

Kevin Bacon's portrayal of Henry Young suffering at the hands of the sadistic Associate Warden is stark. The scenes are graphic and haunting. You will not soon forget the brutality inflicted on this young prisoner.

Christian Slater's portrayal of an eager young public defender on his first case is played very well. After all, it's a case "any monkey can do..." according to his boss. The client is guilty of killing another inmate. An open and shut case. But Slater's character takes on the system and puts Alcatraz on trial as he tries to defend Henry Young on first degree murder charges for the killing of another inmate after he (Young) was released from solitary confinement.

I don't remember this movie playing at local theaters but I strongly recommend you check it out on video rental. The movie is based on an actual incident.


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