Canon City (1948)

Approved   |    |  Action, Crime, Drama

Canon City (1948) Poster

Twelve inmates plan a prison break from the Colorado State Penitentiary but one of them reluctantly joins the group.


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27 May 2014 | evanston_dad
| Prison Break Docudrama from 1948
"Canon City" (spelled c-a-n-o-n but pronounced as "canyon") is an example of a type of film prominent in the late 1940s: the docudrama. Usually these films had a noirish sensibility and were almost always about gritty subject matter. They were part documentary and part fiction -- filmed on location in actual locales with objective third-party narration, stripped-down production values and a journalistic focus on presenting events matter-of-factly and without superfluous emotion.

"Canon City" tells the story of a famous prison break from a Colorado penitentiary. The first part of the film gives us a tour of the prison and introduces us to men who were the actual inmates at the time the movie was filmed; the chief warden of the prison likewise plays the warden in the movie. After this extended prologue, actors take over to portray the actual escape and the subsequent manhunt that put families living nearby at risk as the escaped cons used their homes as hideouts.

The film is very spare and terse, which is not a criticism from me. It's a refreshing break from the Hollywood melodrama that characterized glossier, studio-backed movies at the time. But the film is SO bare bones that it's difficult to feel strongly one way or the other about it. Its bargain-bin look is a nice compliment to the story it's telling, but one can't help but miss the style that artists who came with a higher price tag might have brought to the same material.

Grade: B

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$424,000 (estimated)

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