Murder in the First


Murder in the First

Critics Consensus

Despite a strong cast and story inspired by incredible real-life events, Murder in the First is strictly second rate.



Total Count: 36


Audience Score

User Ratings: 21,978
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Murder in the First Photos

Movie Info

This shocking prison drama was inspired by a true story. In 1938, Henri Young (Kevin Bacon), sentenced to Alcatraz for stealing $5, attempted to escape from prison with three other prisoners. One of the escapees was captured, and to curry favor with Warden Glenn (Gary Oldman), he informed on the others. Young was soon brought back to custody, and was to be punished by spending 19 days in solitary confinement. Nineteen days stretched into three years, in which Young was kept in a pit with no light, no toilet, no furniture, and nothing to read. Young emerged from solitary a vengeful madman, and he quickly murdered the convict who turned him in. Young was put on trial for the killing, and assigned a first-time public defender, James Stamphill (Christian Slater). Stamphill was horrified by Young's tales of the conditions at Alcatraz, and he used them as the basis of his defense for his client, believing that anyone would be driven to madness and murder if they had been treated the same way as Young. Murder in the First also features Embeth Davidtz, William H. Macy, Brad Dourif, and R. Lee Ermey. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi

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Kevin Bacon
as Henri Young
Christian Slater
as James Stamphill
Gary Oldman
as Associate Warden Glenn
Embeth Davidtz
as Mary McCasslin
William H. Macy
as William McNeil
Brad Dourif
as Byron Stamphill
R. Lee Ermey
as Judge Clawson
Mia Kirshner
as Adult Rosetta Young
Ben Slack
as Jerry Hoolihan
Stefan Gierasch
as Warden Humson
Alexander Bookston
as Alcatraz Doc
Herb Ritts
as Mike Kelly
Richie Allan
as Jury Foreman
David Sterling
as Inmate Rufus `Roy' McCain
Michael Melvin
as Inmate Arthur `Doc' Barker
Nick Scoggin
as 2nd Inmate
Neil Summers
as Alcatraz Guard Whitney
Douglas Bennett
as 3rd Inmate
Joseph Richards
as 4th Inmate
Julius Varnado
as 5th Inmate
Tony Barr
as Winthrop
Rob Lee
as Newsreel Reporter
Sheldon Feldner
as Man on the Street
Gary Ballard
as Alcatraz Guard Swenson
Danny Kovacs
as Man on the Street
Randy Pelish
as Alcatraz Guard Whitney
Sonny H. King
as Alcatraz Guard Wimer
William Hall
as Man on the Street
Eddie Bowz
as Alcatraz Guard
Brian Leckner
as Alcatraz Guard
Tim Winters
as Alcatraz Guard
James Keane
as Alcatraz Guard
Lance Brady
as Alcatraz Guard
Michael Merrins
as Alcatraz Guard
Ray Quartermus
as City Jail Guard
Lee E. Mathis
as City Jail Guard
Wayne Parks
as City Jail Guard
Warren Spottswood
as City Jail Guard
Thomas Fenske
as Newsreel Reporter
Robert Lee
as Newsreel Reporter
Wally Rose
as Shopkeeper
Amanda Borden
as Rosetta Young (age 9)
Eve Brenner
as Winthrop's Secretary
Joseph Cole
as Marshall Gates
Richard Kwong
as Chinese Monk
Gary Lee Davis
as Giant of a Man
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Critic Reviews for Murder in the First

All Critics (36) | Top Critics (11)

Audience Reviews for Murder in the First

  • Feb 06, 2013
    Historical inaccuracies aside, its still an effective argument against the inherent hypocrisies and brutality of the American penitentiary system which really hasn't changed much since the 1940s unfortunately.
    Alec B Super Reviewer
  • Jan 27, 2012
    Guy in prison picks Christian Slater as his lawyer. Do we need to go furtehr?
    John B Super Reviewer
  • Dec 18, 2011
    James Stamphill: Unlike many men who lived long after, Henry Young did not die in vain. In the end he was not afraid. He lived and he died in triumph. If only we could all do that.  "One broke his silence. The other broke the system." I did not for the most part like Murder in the First. Most of that came from my general distaste for the lead, Christian Slater. Everything he does in this movie irritates me. The rest of the cast is amazing though, especially Kevin Bacon, who gives one of the better performances I have seen from him. Gary Oldman and William H. Macy are also good, but they have such small roles that they don't really affect my feelings toward the movie.  Murder in the First is the true story of Henri Young, a man who was convicted of stealing $5 and sent to Alcatraz. He tried to escape, but was unsuccessful and ended up being put in solitary confinement. There was supposed to be a limit on how long a man could stay in solitary and that was 19 days. Henri was stuck there for three years and when he came out he killed the man who narced him out. The rest of the movie is an average courtroom drama that seems really fabricated. I don't that that is the case necessarily, but nothing the film really felt genuine. It seems as if a lot of liberties were taken in approaching this story. It is still a worthwhile film to watch because of that performance from Kevin Bacon as Henri and of course because the story is a pretty interesting one. I just think this could have been done so much better and that it could have benefited from having a better lead. He isn't a terrible actor, but he is just all wrong in this role. Christian Slater seems more at home in movies like Very Bad Things. 
    Melvin W Super Reviewer
  • Nov 04, 2010
    Henri Young (Kevin Bacon) is sent to Alcatraz for theft but when he attempts an escape he is thrown into solitary confinement, and kept there for over three years. During that time he is regularly beaten, starved and hideously abused by the prison warden (Gary Oldman). The story is chilling and dark and Kevin Bacon is riveting in his role as a prisoner made to suffer the mental anguish of solitary confinement. His portrayal is not only outstanding but is emotionally draining to watch. When he is finally released into general prison population he snaps and in a sudden, insane rage, plunges a spoon into the throat of a fellow inmate, one who had foiled the escape attempt by ratting on him. A novice lawyer James Stamphill (Christian Slater) takes his case and finds a history of cruelty and suffering. He uses the incident to expose how cruel Alcatraz is accusing the institution of turning Henri into a weapon by repeated mistreatment and brutality.
    Deb S Super Reviewer

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