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Birdman of Alcatraz Review

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★★★★

This is the film biography of Robert Stroud, a convict sentenced to life in solitary who atoned for his violent ways by taking an interest in the birds who visited his cell and became a self-educated expert ornithologist.

In a canny bit of casting, Burt Lancaster swiftly abandons his usual virile thug mannerisms as the character cools down, and spends much of the film alone on screen with birds, painstakingly establishing a worthwhile life within the confines of his cell.

The best stretches are the simplest and most solitary, but the film throws in a riot for the finale and lets a not-yet-completely-bald Telly Savalas establish a good supporting role. John Frankenheimer, during his decade as one of the screen's most innovative and exciting directors, tells a difficult story with imagination and compassion