Blu-Ray Review: Birdman of Alcatraz

After watching Birdman of Alcatraz, you might be surprised to discover that Burt Lancaster’s performance didn’t get rewarded with an Oscar. On further investigation, 1963 was a special year for male leads. Gregory Peck eventually prevailed and picked-up the gong for his role in To Kill a Mockingbird. The other nominees were Peter O’Toole (Lawrence of Arabia), Marcello Mastroianni (Divorce Italian Style) and Jack Lemon (Days of Wine and Roses), who all delivered award-worthy turns. Birdman of Alcatraz is definitely one of Lancaster’s brightest moments.

Robert Stroud (Lancaster) is imprisoned in Leavenworth Prison after killing a man in Alaska. Young and rebellious, he soon finds himself in trouble with the warden Harvey Shoemaker (Karl Malden). After his mother (Thelma Ritter) is denied a visit, his temper gets the better of him and he kills a prison guard. Facing life in solitary confinement, one day Stroud finds an orphaned sparrow and decides to adopt it to stave off boredom. This one action changes his life forever.

Birdman of Alcatraz is a persuasive drama about the power of the human spirit and the ability for man to change. Stroud rails against the world, hating everyone except for his mother. One chance encounter slowly leads him to reassess his life. Director John Frankenheimer allows Lancaster his head and he’s incredible in the role. Birdman of Alcatraz highlight the importance of having a purpose. It’s a wonderful biopic and a lesson in persistence and hope.

Special features:

  • 1080p presentation of the film on Blu-ray, with a progressive encode on the DVD.
  • LPCM mono soundtrack (Uncompressed on the Blu-ray)
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
  • Audio commentary with film historian and editor Paul Seydor, moderated by Twilight Time’s Julie Kirgo and Nick Redman
  • Illusion of Freedom: Richard H. Kline on John Frankenheimer’s “Birdman of Alcatraz” (29 mins) – a new video piece on the film
  • An exclusive new video interview with film historian Sheldon Hall
  • Original theatrical trailer
  • A collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Travis Crawford, as well as a selection of archival imagery from the film’s production

Birdman of Alcatraz is released on dual format DVD and Blu-ray by Eureka Entertainment as part of their Masters of Cinema collection on 6 August.

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