The Prisoner of Shark Island (1936)

Approved   |    |  Biography, Drama, History


The Prisoner of Shark Island (1936) Poster

The story of Dr. Samuel Mudd, who was imprisoned after innocently treating President Lincoln's assassin in 1865.

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7.3/10
1,776

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  • Warner Baxter in The Prisoner of Shark Island (1936)
  • John Carradine in The Prisoner of Shark Island (1936)
  • Gloria Stuart and Warner Baxter in The Prisoner of Shark Island (1936)
  • Warner Baxter and Charles Haefeli in The Prisoner of Shark Island (1936)
  • Matthew 'Stymie' Beard in The Prisoner of Shark Island (1936)
  • Gloria Stuart and Warner Baxter in The Prisoner of Shark Island (1936)

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User Reviews


12 July 2006 | manuel-pestalozzi
8
| Before Guantanamo, there was Dry Tortugas
This moving story does have some actuality. One of the interesting details is some legal argument about the place of residence of doctor Mudd. The lawyers argue that if he could be transported from Shark Island, the prison on Dry Tortugas, to a place where normal US legislation is applied, then a writ of habeas corpus could be served and he would go free. Therefore Mudd's supporters launch a failed rescue attempt to that effect. On Dry Tortugas, an island off the Floridy Keys, the prisoner has no chance to appeal for territorial reasons. In my understanding (I am no lawyer, however) this pretty much reflects the Guantanamo situation of today and one just hopes that no doctor Mudds are holed up there and that all open legal questions in that context can be resolved satisfactorily.

I am always amazed how outspoken movies of the great Hollywood Studios could be on political issues or social or legal injustice. This movie is an important product of this tradition. The Prisoner of Shark Island is almost an Anti Yankee-movie. The soldiers are uncouth and brutal, the carpet baggers sleazy double talkers. The authorities panic after President Lincoln's assassination. Somebody, anybody has to hang for the crime. And fast. One of the memorable moments of the movie has one of the military judges in charge say something like „we owe it to the people", clearly meaning the enraged mob in the square below. Thinking of who else claimed to fulfill the wishes of „the people" around 1936 this could also be an appeal to legal authorities to serve the written law and not give in to those who shout the loudest.

Director John Ford certainly knew how to stir up emotions, some of the pathos might be regarded as slightly overwrought by contemporary viewers. However, The Prisoner of Shark Island certainly is one of the most beautiful and memorable movies of his.

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