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PostPosted: Sun Jul 24, 2005 9:26 pm 
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The Prisoner of Shark Island

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Based on the true-life case of the incarceration of Dr. Samuel Mudd (Oscar-winning Warner Baxter), The Prisoner of Shark Island is a stirring account of the victimization of a simple man. This fast-moving and gripping drama — rarely seen and remarkably timeless — follows Mudd through a calamitous series of brutal encounters. Driven by selfless integrity and his honourable commitment to duty, Mudd exemplifies the quintessential Ford hero who has become, unwittingly, an enemy of the people. Regarded as a personal favourite by the director, it was also the film he was said to be most happy with.

Written by Nunnally Johnson (The Grapes of Wrath, Tobacco Road), The Prisoner of Shark Island dramatizes the fatal shooting of Abraham Lincoln (Frank McGlynn, Sr.) and the subsequent visit by the assassin John Wilkes Booth (Francis McDonald) to Dr. Samuel Mudd's house to fix his broken leg. Unaware of Booth's treason, Mudd is later arrested — narrowly escaping execution after a one-sided military trial — and sentenced to a life of hard labour at Fort Jefferson in Dry Tortugas (an infamous prison in the Gulf of Mexico surrounded by shark-infested waters).

Featuring a blistering, muscular performance by John Carradine as a sadistic prison guard, The Prisoner of Shark Island is a tautly scripted, vividly directed examination of Dr. Mudd's struggle to overcome inhuman justice. Nominated for Best Picture by the American National Board of Review, the film has been rarely screened over recent decades. The Masters of Cinema Series is proud to present The Prisoner of Shark Island for the first time on UK home video in the 70th-anniversary year of its original release.

Special Features

• New high definition, progressive transfer
• Full-length audio commentary — more details soon
• New video interview with film critic David Ehrenstein
• Promotional material gallery
• Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
• 130-page continuity and dialogue script and the 4-page musical cue sheet (both in pdf format)
• 24-page booklet — with writing by Lindsay Anderson, and others


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PostPosted: Sun Jul 24, 2005 10:41 pm 
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Great movie, great choice. Does this signal a new Fox stream?


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 25, 2005 2:43 am 
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I think this would round out a nice box set of Ford's films surrounding Lincoln. With The Iron Horse, and Young Mr Lincoln. Just a thought.


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 25, 2005 9:19 am 
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This is one of Ford's richest and most compelling films from the Thirties, right up there with "Young Mr. Lincoln" and "Stagecoach." It's also been an elusive and unaccountably obscure title in the Ford cannon, rarely broadcast and never, I think, released on home video. The MoC disc is sure to redress these grievances on all accounts. Nice work, Nick.


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 25, 2005 4:32 pm 
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The expression 'his name is mud', actually started as 'his name is Mudd', as in the Dr Mudd of the film, and his role in the aftermath of Lincoln's assassination by John wilkes Booth...

I have 43 Ford films on VHs, and only 5 on DVd, but this and a YOUNG MR LINCOLN from the CC, may start me building up on a changeover...


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 25, 2005 4:54 pm 
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Do you have this


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 25, 2005 5:00 pm 
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Yes really good dvd.... Restored pristinely by David Gill and Kevin Brownlow and a great new orchestral score...


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 25, 2005 5:10 pm 
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Good stuff, I thought it would be worth a mention.

Kevin Brownlow of It Happened Here fame.


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PostPosted: Sat Aug 20, 2005 3:46 am 
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cover art up


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PostPosted: Sat Aug 20, 2005 4:17 pm 
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Wow. Gorgeous cover art.
Any word on a street date?


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PostPosted: Sat Aug 20, 2005 4:40 pm 
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Jan


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PostPosted: Sat Aug 20, 2005 7:15 pm 

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Absolutely gorgeous. The composition and color palette remind me of Criterion's Boudu, but this one has way more texture and just looks great. Best MoC-cover until now imo.


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PostPosted: Sun Aug 21, 2005 12:53 am 
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peerpee wrote:
Jan

Thanks for that, peerpee!

By the way, many kudos for your excellent selections. My copies of Humanity and Paper Balloons and Asphalt (two other gutsy choices) arrived last week and they look absolutely splendid!


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PostPosted: Sun Aug 21, 2005 1:19 am 
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Many thanks, dmkb. Glad you like them.

--

Anybody got any dream extras for this or any of our forthcoming titles that they'd like to see? Any particularly sterling essays on this film that folk think should go with it?

We're reprinting Lindsay Anderson, and working out if it would be possible to interview Roger Mudd...


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PostPosted: Sun Aug 21, 2005 2:48 pm 
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Perhaps some History Channel doc about the real Dr. Mudd. Or even another film about him "The Ordeal of Dr. Mudd".


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 23, 2005 7:35 am 
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Given the ongoing controversy about Mudd's role in the Lincoln assassination and the viewer's inevitable desire, upon finishing the excellent movie, to know the facts behind the film, some kind of historical overview would be most welcome. Mudd's own letters are published and readily available, and some of them might be interesting to include among the supplements.

A book entitled Dr. Mudd and the Lincoln Assassination: The Case Reopened, by John Paul Jones, recounts the proceedings of a moot trial conducted at the University of Richmond School of Law in 1993. Participants in this latter affair included F. Lee Bailey, among others, some of whom might have something interesting to say about Mudd. Perhaps the Richmond School of Law can advise regarding any recordings or footage of the moot trial itself. Reviewed here -- favorably considers the book, His Name is Still Mudd: The Case Against Dr. Samuel Alexander Mudd, which purports to debunk the notion of the doctor's innocence. The review references a Mudd society and newsletter, as well as several other books addressing the Mudd case. It also mentions the documentary, "Rewriting History: The Case of Dr. Samuel A. Mudd," which I have seen on television, but don't remember well enough to recommend.


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 23, 2005 7:53 am 
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There's 3 pages about the production of PRISONER OF SHARK ISLAND in Dan Ford's memoir/biography PAPPY - The Life of John Ford....


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PostPosted: Tue Sep 06, 2005 9:08 pm 
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URGENT!

We are interviewing Gloria Stuart, the female lead in THE PRISONER OF SHARK ISLAND, on Friday.

We wondered if anyone had any particularly good questions for her?

Apparently she was fond of Ford, worked with him previously in AIR MAIL, and they were both active in the Hollywood Anti-Nazi League. Gloria liked to tease him about politics, was ardently progressive in the 30s, and was close to many Hollywood writers (she was married to Arthur Sheekman).

She's 95 years old and full of beans. Interesting, pertinent questions about Ford, John Carradine, Harry Carey, Warner Baxter, etc. most welcome!

Thanks!


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PostPosted: Wed Sep 07, 2005 4:16 am 
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Well you could ask about Ford's way of directing on both films... She is quoted: "In both Ford pictures I don't remember what I call directing. He was very good with the camera. I don't remember much dialogue between John and actors"..... "On Airmail he gave me precisely one piece of direction. Before one particular scene, he said 'Okay kids, believe it'. I though it was terribly important"

She was a classically trained stage and movie actor, unused to his methods. So how did he get his actors to perform? We had Maureen O'Hara recently at the Film Fest and she had lots of tales of Ford at work and play...

Also what differences did Stuart see in Ford between AIRMAIL (1932) and 4 years later with PRISONER OF SHARK ISLAND (1936) when he had become famous with THE INFORMER (1935) and the Judge Priest films?...


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 08, 2005 2:47 pm 
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Thanks, ellipsis7.

The interview has been postponed by a few days due to a family bereavement.

I'll post the new date when we know it, but we have more time to collate a fine set of questions now. Keep em coming!


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 08, 2005 4:49 pm 
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You could ask her about Ford's famous on-set handkerchief chewing. And if he didn't talk with the actors, what exactly did he he spend his time doing? Who did he talk to? What does a director actually do? Is it true he would sit right next to the camera and put his fist in front of the lens as he called "Cut" so only the footage he wanted could be used? Is it true he'd often only do one take of a shot, or is that an exaggeration? And can she offer any examples of ways in which he staged his scenes differently from other directors she worked with (John Cromwell, James Whale, Busby Berkeley, Allan Dwan...)? How did a director working in the 30s studio system create what is now considered a highly personal style? Who else was important in the creation of the film (Zanuck, Nunnally Johnson, Bert Glennon...) and how? And does she have any anecdotes about Ford and Harry Carey (this was their first film together since 1921)?

Think that about covers it for now.


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 08, 2005 4:52 pm 
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There are a couple of things I've always been curious about regarding Ford, but I'm not sure whether Stuart would be someone who could answer them. For what it's worth, however, here goes:

1.) Ford's approach to direction seems to have been shaped largely by his own sense of the physical set. In an interview, Elia Kazan has said that Ford would plan each day's shoot on the morning of that day by getting up before everyone else, wondering around the set, and working out what needed to be done in his mind. My questions to Stuart would be: (1) Is this true? And (2) how much input did his actors/actresses have in influencing his decisions and/or altering them?

2.) I seem to remember that Ford's brother Francis has a substantial role in Prisoner of Shark Island (or at least somewhat larger than he usually got) and that, by the time (1936), it was pretty clear that Francis' career as a movie director in his own right was washed up, due in part to the coming of sound. I'm curious how Stuart would characterize their relationship on the set. I've heard that Ford could be quite harsh with Francis, sometimes even humiliating him, and I wonder if Stuart saw any of this. Of course, Harry Carey has a sizeable role, too (his last for Ford, I believe), and this was well after their rift. So I guess I'd be interested in asking Stuart just how tense the set was, and whether or not it was a very pleasant shoot.

3.) Finally, I'm always curious about Ford's attitude towards the use of music in his films, which has always been a contentious point among critics. (The usual read is that Ford simply didn't care about film music, but that seems a bit of a generalization.) Prisoner of Shark Island was made immediately after Max Steiner won an Oscar for his score for Ford's Informer, and I'm curious if Ford made any comments at all about this while filming Prisoner. (This is probably the least likely question that Stuart could answer, but it would be interesting if she could shed any light on the subject.)

Hope these questions are useful. Ignore them if they're stupid.


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PostPosted: Tue Sep 13, 2005 11:14 pm 
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This disc is a blind buy. Can't wait to hear more.

I only hope Criterion doesn't release this as part of a Ford box. Ouch.


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 15, 2005 1:58 pm 
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Commentary by either Joseph McBride, Jim Kitses or Gregg Rickman would be great.


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PostPosted: Wed Nov 30, 2005 9:41 pm 
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Just received a DVD-R copy from Fox Cable US of Prisoner of Shark Island and the print looks fantastic! This plus the extras is a real coup for MoC (and people can now retire the so-so French disc.)


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