Brubaker (1980, USA)


Why don’t we run prisons like this and save on salary costs? This is an extraordinary tale based on the real-life story of Tom Murton, who in 1967-68 exposed corruption and mass murder in the Tucker and Cummins State Prison Farms in Arkansas – and was promptly fired by a worried State Governor after the first three (of an estimated 200) bodies of prisoners murdered by the trustee prison guards were exhumed at Cummins.

In the film Henry Brubaker is the new prison warden who (unlike Murton) goes into his Wakefield prison farm undercover as a prisoner, before revealing his true position when the corruption and sadism start to become too awkward to ignore. His prison is essentially run by long-term trustees (ie prisoners), with a bit of administrative support from one or two paid workers thrown in. It’s a tough gig. The brutal prisoner-guards run their rackets, the prison’s governing board takes its slings, the farm and cheap prison labour make huge money for corrupt locals, and Brubaker takes them all on, alone.

It’s hard to get one’s head around a prison run by armed prisoners (but that bit was true, paid guards being too expensive, it seems), and just as hard to think of reformist criminologists being as debonair and good looking as Robert Redford. Murton (dark haired, daggy and bespectacled) was no doubt very flattered.

Brubaker #2 Brubaker #3

Posted on May 2nd, 2009 at 12:23 am. Updated on August 29th, 2019 at 8:43 pm.

#9 in the Top 500

8 Responses to “Brubaker (1980, USA)”

  1. May 11th, 2011 at 2:50 pm
    wj says:

    yah awesome site, im watching brubaker rite now on fmc (fox movie classics), check out the scenes where they show the prisons front gate and then look at pictures of the front gate to auschwitz.

  2. July 8th, 2011 at 9:54 pm
    aoudia321 says:

    tres bon film svp coment doit je le telecharger gratuitement bien aimable salutation

  3. May 29th, 2012 at 12:21 am
    don says:

    This was one of Morgan Freeman’s first films.
    It is ironic that he would also appear in Shawshank redemption

  4. September 12th, 2014 at 12:23 pm
    Mark Stewart says:

    Probably the grittiest, most realistic prison ever put on film. I don’t know if Redford has ever given a better performance and he really was over looked at Oscar time, although he won Best Director the same year for “Ordinary People.”

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