Tuesday, July 14, 2015

562. Papillon

Directed by Franklin J. Schaffner

There are some great prison movies on The List, but none seem to portray the sheer hopelessness that is life in prison.  They also don't have Dustin Hoffman in Mr. Magoo glasses so, you know.  Added bonus.

Henri Charriere is framed for murdering someone.  Or, at least, that is what conveyed to us in a bizarre, Jesus Christ Superstar-esque dream sequence.  Anyway, he is sentenced to life imprisonment in French Guiana.  If you try to escape, you are given five years in solitary confinement.  If you try to escape twice, you are given ten years.  If you try to escape a third time, you are guillotined.  When will the French lay off the guillotine?  Anyway, Henri befriends a rich nerdy guy who needs protection.  Bromance ensues.

This was a great movie, although, without giving it away, some of the sequences were profoundly disturbing.  In those circumstances, I might be trying to guillotine myself.  Both Hoffman and McQueen are excellent.

Great film, right up there with Shawshank.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

Steve McQueen performed the cliff jumping scene himself.

The crew ingested a lot of marijuana while filming.  They boiled it and put it in drinks.  And I thought the brownies were disgusting.

Theft from the locals was a problem and around $3,000 worth of damages occurred.


  1. I'll agree that it showed hopelessness to a tee, but I didn't get into this as much as you. Prison movies are my favorite too and I'd have to say this is one of the worst prison films I'd seen. Glad you liked it though and agree that Hoffman is priceless here. Love his conversations with the pigs.

    1. I can see that but I felt like the filmmakers were purposely trying to suffocate us a bit. Thanks Andrew!

  2. The hopelessness and despair were overwhelming. Extremely well done with fantastic acting, but so sad.

    1. Yes, this definitely bummed me out for awhile afterward.