The Review at a Glance: (max score: 5 )
Audio/Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )
Studio and Year: Warner - 1995
MPAA Rating: R
Feature running time: 122 minutes
Disc Format: BD-25
Encoding: AVC (MPEG-4)
Video Aspect: 1.85:1
Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio, English/Spanish Dolby Stereo
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Starring: Kevin Bacon, Christian Slater, Gary Oldman, Embeth Davidtz, Brad Dourif, William H. Macy, R. Lee Emery
Directed by:Marc Rocco
Music by: Christopher Young
Written by: Dan Gordon
Region Code: A,B,C
Blu-ray Disc release Date: July 17, 2012
Murder in the first is based on the true story of the trial that shut down the dungeons of Alcatraz in the 1930’s. A young, inexperienced public defender is assigned to defend an inmate accused of committing murder while behind bars.
Kevin Bacon plays convict Henri Young. His crime: heisting $5 from a local store to feed his starving sister. The problem is that the local store also doubled as the post office which elevated his theft to a federal offense. Henri is ultimately transferred to Alcatraz, a fate usually reserved for criminals whose crimes far exceeded his. In 1937 he along with three other inmates attempted to escape and failed. After recapture he as made an example of and confined to the prison’s dungeons in torturous brutal isolation lasting three mind-shattering years. When Henri at last emerges, he's confused, savage, barely human...and in an unconsciously impulsive act slays the stoolie who ratted on his escape. It's an open-and-shut case of Murder One. But a resolute attorney has another option. He and Henri will put Alcatraz and its sadistic associate warden on trial.
I saw Murder in the first years ago when it was first released on DVD. I wasn’t blown away by the film so much as I was impressed with the direction and compelling performance by Kevin Bacon. This is a poignant story of injustice, inhumane treatment, courage and hope in the face of tremendous adversity. Bacon delivers what I believe to be among his finest if not the best performance of his career for which he received no recognition which is a shame. His portrayal of 28 year old Henri, a man whose arrested development leaves him longing for friendship and unable to understand let alone convey the depths of the anguish he withstood at the hands of a sadistic tyrant that used his position at Alcatraz as an outlet for his barbarous behavior is riveting at times.
The film is very loosely based on a true story/person but from what I have read there is little factual basis for much of it. Regardless it is powerfully told and evocative in theme which when coupled with apt direction and a solid cast that includes the terrific Gary Oldman, Christian Slater, William H. Macy, R. Lee Emery and the aforementioned Kevin Bacon add up to a worthwhile Hollywood drama that is time well spent indeed.
The rating is for strong images of brutality, a scene of sexuality and language.
AUDIO/VIDEO - By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100 / EXCELLENT = 83-91 / GOOD = 74-82 / AVERAGE = 65-73 / BELOW AVERAGE = under 65
**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Low frequency extension:
- Surround Sound presentation:
- Dialogue Reproduction:
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Black level/Shadow detail:
- Color reproduction:
Murder in the first comes to Blu-ray Disc from Warner Home Video featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate 17 Mbps and lossless DTS-HD 2.0 Master Audio sound that has an average bitrate of 1.7 Mbps.
This 1.85:1 framed Blu-ray Disc presentation features a solid looking video encoding that boasts stable contrast, bright, detailed whites, and gradationally enhanced grays. This coupled along with punchy blacks and delineated shadow detail gives images both light and dark excellent depth. The video is crisp and definitively resolved as fidelity appears to be intact. Wide angle shots have appreciable dimension with clear rendering of objects within foregrounds and backgrounds. Close ups reveal lots of subtle refinement as the intricate textures within facial features, clothing, and objects is easily discernible. This isn’t an overly colorful film. Many sequences have a filtered and de-saturated appearance that seems to coincide with the director’s intention. Deep shades of blue and green stand out nicely against the muted chromatic range and look great. Skin tones rarely yield any truly defining complexional characteristics but all appear natural within the scope of the source material. On occasion sharpness wavers however it appears innate and isn’t distracting. I have no complaints with the overall quality of this high definition rendering.
The elements in this soundtrack didn’t present a challenge for the DTS-HD Master Audio stereo mix. The presentation was predominantly limited to the front channels and the soundstage was one dimensional but never felt compressed. Dialogue was intelligible and the various sounds contained in the recording were clearly audible. There aren’t any dynamically challenging components here and the mix seemed appropriate. I never felt it was missing anything and thought that it sounded fine.
- (HD) Kevin Bacon: Back to Alcatraz – 12 minute retrospective
- Theatrical trailer
Murder in the first tells the story of Henri Young, an inmate at Alcatraz prison in the 1930’s who commits murder behind bars but during the trial turns the tables on “The Rock” and those responsible for pushing a man to the brink just to satisfy their own need for redemption. It is an above average drama that is made better thanks to a sterling performance by Kevin Bacon, a strong supporting cast, and spot on direction by Marc Rocco. It shines in this solid Blu-ray offering from Warner Home Video that includes excellent high definition video, crystal clear lossless sound and an enlightening retrospective supplement that features Kevin Bacon. It has been a number of years since I have seen Murder in the first and this revisit proved as entertaining as I remember it. If you already own the 1999 DVD this may warrant an upgrade depending on how important the increase in video quality and the addition of the Kevin Bacon: Back to Alcatraz feature is to you. If you don’t already own it and like the film this is worth picking up. Otherwise give it a rent and see what you think.
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