Release Date(s)1975 (February 1, 2019)
Studio(s)Columbia Pictures (Powerhouse Films/Indicator)
- Film/Program Grade: B+
- Video Grade: A-
- Audio Grade: B
- Extras Grade: B+
Hot off the heels of filming what would become his most well-known effort (Death Wish), Charles Bronson and his wife Jill Ireland joined director Tom Gries and company for 1975’s Breakout. In the film, Robert Duvall is Jay Wagner, a businessman whose dealings interfere with the affairs of his grandfather (John Huston). Framing him for a murder he didn’t commit, Wagner is unjustly sent to Mexican prison for 28 years. His wife Ann (Ireland) enlists the help of pilot Nick Colton (Bronson) and his partner Hawk Hawkins (Randy Quaid) to help her husband escape.
While being infinitely entertaining, Breakout is also based upon the real-life event of J.M. Kaplan’s rescue from prison via helicopter. The film embellishes on the tale, changing names and adding a few events, but is otherwise faithful to those events. Bronson is also given one of his more fascinating roles as Colton – a Tom Selleck/Harrison Ford-ish type of character, full of swagger and wit, two things that Bronson was almost never given the opportunity to use throughout his career. Post Death Wish, he was almost always cold and calculating, but in Breakout, he constantly quips, yells, and laughs, which actually works better than one might imagine.
Breakout is also wound fairly tight for the most part. We spend a great deal of time with Colton and Hawk as they try to come up with various ways of getting Wagner out of prison, including Hawk having to dress like a woman. It’s the story’s kookiest moment, but it’s immediately punctuated with some strong violence. According to author Paul Talbot, there was even a deleted scene of Colton and Hawk dressing as nuns in order to survey the outside of the prison. It could be that the film was originally meant to rely more heavily on humor, but thankfully, director Tom Gries and his editor Barry Malkin found a nice balance (although the film does contain one of the most spectacular and unintentionally funny dummy deaths ever filmed).
Indicator presents Breakout with a rock-solid presentation, courtesy of Sony Pictures. It’s an organic-looking transfer with thick but even grain and high levels of detail. The color palette is fairly robust, despite the lack of variety, which is relegated mostly to tans and grays, but there are also sporadic uses of blues, greens, and reds as well. Blacks are deep but slightly lightened by the grain, while contrast and brightness levels are quite satisfactory. Everything appears crisp and stable with little to no leftover damage, which is mostly black speckling, but also some light scratches in the center of the frame during one scene.
The audio is presented as an English mono LPCM track with optional subtitles in English SDH. The film doesn’t get a whole lot of use out of its sound effects as it’s mostly driven by dialogue, but what is present has some decent heft. Dialogue is clean and clear at all times, but some of the overdubbing is a little obvious. Jerry Goldsmith’s suspenseful and sometimes playful action score definitely has presence on the soundtrack, but is never burdensome. There are also no instances of leftover hiss, crackle, or distortion.
Extras include an audio commentary by author Paul Talbot, who provides a wealth of information about the film, its cast, and its crew; Filming Breakout in the Fort de Bellegarde, a 6-minute French news segment that shows the film in production and briefly interviews Charles Bronson and actor Emilio Fernandez on the set; the 18-minute Super 8 version of the film, which features some alternate dialogue from John Huston that was ultimately overdubbed in the final film; the original theatrical trailer in HD; 5 TV spots; 2 radio spots; an image gallery containing 74 images of behind-the-scenes photos, on-set photography, advertising materials, lobby cards, and posters; and a 32-page insert booklet with the essay The Making of Breakout by Paul Talbot, The Jailbreak of the Century: The Real Breakout by Paul Talbot, a set of critical responses, the film’s poster, and presentation details.
Above all else, Breakout is a stand-out for Charles Bronson. He’s charming and engaging in a way that he was rarely ever allowed to be. Add to that a suspenseful plot, fun characters, and some great set pieces and you have yourself a fairly solid action yarn with a sardonic backbone. Indicator’s Blu-ray release of the film is certainly not one to miss, especially for Bronson fans who might have missed it up until now.
– Tim Salmons