Canon City


1h 22m 1948
Canon City

Brief Synopsis

A convict uses a fake gun to start a full-scale prison escape.

Film Details

Also Known As
Blood on the Snow
Genre
Action
Prison
Film Noir
Release Date
Jul 6, 1948
Premiere Information
World premiere in Canon City, CO: 2 Jul 1948
Production Company
Eagle-Lion Films, Inc.
Distribution Company
Eagle-Lion Films, Inc.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 22m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
7,380ft (9 reels)

Synopsis

At the Colorado State Penitentiary near Canon City, inmate Carl Schwartzmiller and others are secretly making crude weapons to use in a prison break. Jimmy Sherbondy, an inmate who is opposed to the breakout, unwittingly becomes involved in the scheme when one of the convicts hides a gun in the projection room where he works. Jimmy later embraces the plan, though, when he discovers that he faces another ten years in prison. On 30 Dec 1947, Sherbondy initiates the prison break by sawing through his cell bars. While some of the twelve escapees from the solitary confinement cell mix with inmates returning from the mess hall, they are spotted by Officer Gray. Gray is nearly beaten to death by the escapees, and is then taken as a hostage. Once outside the prison walls, the escapees enter the small town of Canon City, where a siren alerting the town of the prison break has sent the population scrambling to their homes. While some of the escapees scatter throughout the town, six of them take refuge in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Oliver and their daughter. Inside the Oliver home, the escapees use threats to demand new clothes and weapons. When Mrs. Oliver attacks Schwartzmiller with a hammer, the escapees overpower her and then raid the Smiths' home. There one of the inmates tries to rape the Mr. Smith's seventeen-year-old niece, but Sherbondy intervenes and stops him. When the police arrive, the escapees use Mrs. Smith as a human shield and engage the police in a shootout. All but Sherbondy are either killed or captured by the police in the ensuing gun battle. Sherbondy escapes to the home of Mr. and Mrs. George Bauer, whose young son Jerry is suffering from appendicitis and is in need of medical help. Though planning to flee with the Bauers' car, Sherbondy has a change of heart and allows the boy to be taken to a hospital instead. En route to the hospital, Sherbondy approaches a police roadblock and willingly surrenders himself. Sixty-one hours after the prison break, Sherbondy, the last of the fugitives, is arrested and sent back to prison to rejoin the other escapees in solitary confinement.

Film Details

Also Known As
Blood on the Snow
Genre
Action
Prison
Film Noir
Release Date
Jul 6, 1948
Premiere Information
World premiere in Canon City, CO: 2 Jul 1948
Production Company
Eagle-Lion Films, Inc.
Distribution Company
Eagle-Lion Films, Inc.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 22m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
7,380ft (9 reels)

Articles

Canon City


Canon City (1948), directed by Crane Wilbur, is based on an actual jailbreak that occurred at this maximum security compound in Colorado in 1947. Although the narrative focuses on an inmate named Sherbondy (Scott Brady) who is blackmailed by some fellow prisoners into escaping from the facility, the film seems closer to a documentary than a Hollywood prison flick. Part of this is due to the director's decision to cast non-professionals with real actors in the film (The "actor" identified as Roy Best is the same warden who was at the prison during the actual jailbreak in 1947!). Another reason the film has such an immediacy to it is due to the exceptional cinematography.

The man behind the camera of Canon City is John Alton (Telluride honoree in 1993). He's been the creative visual eye behind such films as Border Incident (1949), Father of the Bride (1950), and the film he won an Oscar® for in 1951, An American in Paris. John Alton came to the United States from Hungary in 1919 and stumbled into the movie business when the gate man at New York Studio (Hearst's Cosmopolitan Studios) noticed him, said "you're just the man we're looking for," and immediately hired him as a dress extra. This led to an invested interest in the movie business and a few years later, he jumped at the opportunity to work as a lab technician at MGM, a job which eventually led to the camera department. Alton is probably best known for his definitive film noir work on such movies as T-Men (1947), Raw Deal (1948), and He Walked By Night (1948). It's why he was the perfect choice to shoot Canon City.

Director: Crane Wilbur
Producer: Bryan Foy
Screenplay: Crane Wilbur
Cinematography: John Alton
Editing: Louis Sackin
Art Direction: Frank Durlauf
Cast: Scott Brady (Jim Sherbondy), Jeff Corey (Schwartzmiller), Whit Bissell (Heilman), Charles Russell (Tolley), DeForest Kelley (Smalley).
BW-82m.

by Rod Hollimon
Canon City

Canon City

Canon City (1948), directed by Crane Wilbur, is based on an actual jailbreak that occurred at this maximum security compound in Colorado in 1947. Although the narrative focuses on an inmate named Sherbondy (Scott Brady) who is blackmailed by some fellow prisoners into escaping from the facility, the film seems closer to a documentary than a Hollywood prison flick. Part of this is due to the director's decision to cast non-professionals with real actors in the film (The "actor" identified as Roy Best is the same warden who was at the prison during the actual jailbreak in 1947!). Another reason the film has such an immediacy to it is due to the exceptional cinematography. The man behind the camera of Canon City is John Alton (Telluride honoree in 1993). He's been the creative visual eye behind such films as Border Incident (1949), Father of the Bride (1950), and the film he won an Oscar® for in 1951, An American in Paris. John Alton came to the United States from Hungary in 1919 and stumbled into the movie business when the gate man at New York Studio (Hearst's Cosmopolitan Studios) noticed him, said "you're just the man we're looking for," and immediately hired him as a dress extra. This led to an invested interest in the movie business and a few years later, he jumped at the opportunity to work as a lab technician at MGM, a job which eventually led to the camera department. Alton is probably best known for his definitive film noir work on such movies as T-Men (1947), Raw Deal (1948), and He Walked By Night (1948). It's why he was the perfect choice to shoot Canon City. Director: Crane Wilbur Producer: Bryan Foy Screenplay: Crane Wilbur Cinematography: John Alton Editing: Louis Sackin Art Direction: Frank Durlauf Cast: Scott Brady (Jim Sherbondy), Jeff Corey (Schwartzmiller), Whit Bissell (Heilman), Charles Russell (Tolley), DeForest Kelley (Smalley). BW-82m. by Rod Hollimon

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

The working title of this film was Blood on the Snow. The opening credits include the following written statement: "This is a true story of a prison break and the reign of terror that followed it. The events depicted in the film are the actual events that transpired at the Colorado State Prison in Canon City on the night of December 30th last. The convicts you will see are the actual convicts. Roy Best, who appears as the warden, is actually the warden of the prison. The details of the break are portrayed exactly as they occurred and were photographed where they happened." In fact, although the names of the convicts were real, they were portrayed by actors. A February 4, 1948 Hollywood Reporter news item announced that the film would be shot entirely on location and that Turhan Bey had been cast as a murderer, but Bey did not appear in the completed film.
       A Life Magazine article on August 2, 1948 reported that the warden invited eight of the nine surviving escapees to a special showing on July 3, 1948. Carl Schwartzmiller, the leader, was kept in his cell because he had tried to dig his way out a few days before, and claimed that he did not like movies anyway. Life photographer J. R. Eyerman set up a battery of cameras containing infrared film to catch the convicts' expressions as they watched the film. The magazine reported that: "They saw themselves tracked down, trying to wriggle out a net tightened around them by the whole community, three of them finally dead, others wounded, all accounted for on the big chart in the warden's office. They heard a narrator's voice end the film by saying, '...the way back for the violent and the savage...can only be by the road of right and law and justice.' Then the lights went on and they went back to solitary."