The Prisoner of Shark Island - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The Prisoner of Shark Island Reviews

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December 25, 2017
Really strange prison film about a man accused of plotting to assassinate Abraham Lincoln. Very cinematic-looking - especially for the era in which it was made.
November 9, 2017
Prisoner of Shark Island is an early John Ford film giving an only roughly accurate version of the story of Dr. Samuel Mudd, who treated John Wilkes Booth for the injuries he sustained in assassinating Lincoln, was arrested and sentenced to life imprisonment as part of the assassination conspiracy, and was later exonerated. The film is well done and tautly directed, though it also occasionally displays Ford's typical weaknesses of sentimentality, stereotyping, and low humor. Warner Baxter (probably best remembered today for 42nd Street) does a creditable job as Mudd, and John Carradine is a standout as a sadistic prison guard. Though generally minor Ford, the piece does have a few good set pieces, such as the portrait of Lincoln ordering the band to play "Dixie" as a token of reconciliation, and the grim scenes of the trial and execution of the conspirators. All in all, generally worth watching still today, and certainly a film that serious students of Ford's work will want to see. Advisory: the film's treatment of African-Americans, while clearly well intentioned, is likely to strike today's viewers as stereotyped and patronizing.
January 12, 2016
An exciting well told story of Dr. Samuel Mudd a man wrongfully accused for aiding John Wilkes Booth just after her assassinated Abraham Lincoln.

He is sent to a prison in the Gulf of Mexico called Shark Island. The story is an interesting one & despite the injustice he goes through he remains a moral man.

Mudd was played Warner Baxter who did a wonderful job with his role. John Ford truly was an incredible director & this is a great film of perseverance & struggle & victory.
January 20, 2015
Dirigida con un buen pulso , esta es una pelicula que no decae en ningun momento gracias al maesto John Ford.
July 25, 2011
Despite its attempts, this movie is--for the most part--very boring. Probably my least favorite John Ford film I've seen. (Though it still looked great.)
December 2, 2010
Netter Film von John Ford der aber die ein oder andere kleinere Lšnge vorzuweisen hat.
½ August 14, 2010
Great film. Ford mixes in a strong humanistic element, while using the expressionism he had been experimenting with in the 30's to great effect. This makes the visuals the most impacting element of the film. Further, Ford's profound simplicity is on display here to great form in the film's first fifteen minutes. The scenes with Lincoln on the balcony of the White House and at Ford's Theater create an effective and heartfelt prologue for the action to follow.
June 18, 2010
Dirigida con un buen pulso , esta es una pelicula que no decae en ningun momento gracias al maesto John Ford.
½ June 1, 2010
John Ford zeichnet das Bild eines fragilen, vom B√ľrgerkrieg zerrissenen und notd√ľrftig geflickten Amerika, das durch den Mord an Abraham Lincoln in seinem noch prek√§ren Fundament ersch√ľttert wird und vor dem R√ľckfall in Barbarei und Gewalt steht. Darin wird THE PRISONER OF SHARK ISLAND stellenweise best√ľrzend aktuell. Inhaltlich wird der Film nach knapp der H√§lfte seiner Laufzeit zum Gef√§ngnisfilm, bevor es dieses Genre im engeren Sinne gab.
March 14, 2010
Le film déforme la vérité historique pour mettre l'accent sur l'injustice subie par le personnage, ce qui fait manquer de subtilité à l'histoire.
De bons acteurs, et quelques bonnes s√©quences : l'arriv√©e des soldats chez Mudd et l'encha√ģnement de malentendus et de circonstances aggravantes qui le condamnent, et sa tentative d'√©vasion, bonne s√©quence d'action qui met √† profit le tr√®s bon d√©cor de la prison.
September 24, 2009
The prisoner of Shark island is the story of Dr.Mudd; he was arrested of unknowingly assisting John Wilkes Booth after Lincoln's death, by bandaging his leg. After his arrest he is sentence to the Infamous Shark Island, which as you may have guessed is an island surrounded by Shark infested waters.

The story is probably not completely historically accurate. It's still not clear if Mudd was part of the assassination conspiracy and it has been confirmed he did probably met Booth on a previous occasion. But to an extent this doesn't matter Ford frequently pointed out that he does not make documentaries and in fact thought they were boring. Ford having surveyed almost all of American history up until the time of his death approached it not unlike G.B. Shaw while not striving for prefect accuracy but giving us an understanding of people of that time and the context they existed in.

Prisoner of Shark Island is perhaps one of Ford's best pictures although it's relatively unknown to a modern audience, this is odd because the film feels more relevant now than ever.The film deals with demonization of alleged criminals based entirely of circumstantial evidence and calling it patriotism and pointing out how legal courts should be 'The voice of the people'. The mentality Ford depicts in the early court scenes(where the defendants are brought in with sacks on their heads) show how political uncertainty can give rise to paranoia and persecution. The scenes on the island are among some of the best in Ford's career and being Catholic may be his best mediation on the nature of suffering , the paraphrased quote from 'Inferno' (abandon hope those who enter here) above the prison cells is a stroke of brilliance.

Ford's films are hard for young people to appreciate as many of them contain folksy elements(which you'll see in some of the earlier scenes) but with repeated viewings it's easy to see how his insight transcends things like that. As Francois Tiffuat(who originally wasn't a fan of Ford's material) said "He Achieved absolute uniformity on technical expertise'. Before wrapping this up the issue of race should still be discussed. Again many of the African Americans in the film have roles that are somewhat stereotyped as a product of the time. Ford however still treats them with a great deal of respect and Dr.Mudd's only real companion in the film is his black friend Buck(who is essentially his counterpart). The most interesting aspect is once on island all the guards are black and essentially in control of their white in a brilliant reversal of fortune, it was an aspect Daryl Zannuck loved about the film.
July 29, 2009
While historians continue to debate Dr. Mudd's guilt, John Ford portrays him as a victim of circumstance swept up in the hysteria following the assassination of President Lincoln. In one of his best roles, Warner Baxter gives a searing portrait as Dr. Mudd. While some of the plot situations are purely fanciful, Baxter never lets the viewer forget that this is the story of a real man unfolding before us. Whether proclaiming his innocence, vainly struggling to escape his hideous confinement or valiantly attempting to fight an outbreak of yellow fever, Baxter is never anything less than completely compelling. John Carradine is chilling as a sadistic prison guard, like something out of a horror movie.
July 24, 2009
A barely watchable film and its blatant racism makes it all the more difficult to appreciate. Worse than all, the Dr Mudd is presented as some sort of hero whereas his heroic deed was to have two shots fired at a ship. The Kafkaesque part of the story is pleasant nonetheless but over all the script's too poor for the film to be intresting.
April 20, 2009
Very much a film of its time, particularly in its attitudes to race, this is nevertheless a compelling story. After unwittingly treating John Wilkes Booth's broken leg, Dr. Samuel Mudd is implicated in the plot to kill Lincoln, and sentenced to life imprisonment in the Dry Tortugas in Florida. It's sharply paced, with characters of real depth and some memorable scenes. John Carradine's performance as the brutal jailor is particularly strong.
April 14, 2009
A lesser known John Ford picture - again part of the MOC series, presents a fascinating portrait of guilt by association
December 15, 2008
no thanks not my thing
August 15, 2008
That‚??s three John Ford non-documentary feature films in which Abraham Lincoln appears by my count and I wouldn‚??t be surprised if there are more out there. I suspect he is the only director about which this can be said. Lincoln seems like the kind of man worthy of three Ford films though. Ford is an incredibly engaging storyteller. He seems to know exactly how to pique one‚??s interest and keep them engaged in the film. This doesn‚??t seem to have been the proudest moment in our nation‚??s history. It‚??s interesting to compare this reaction to the reaction of the current administration to the prosecutorial problems of today. Ford is a true patriotic in that he isn‚??t afraid to criticize his country in order to point out its failings and better it for future generations. Excellent work, as always.
½ July 7, 2008
This movie is based on a true story of a man associated with John Wilkes Booth that gets tried and convicted as a conspirator to Lincoln's assassination. It's a little slow in parts, but still very interesting, and surprisingly relevant to contemporary times.
Super Reviewer
July 7, 2008
nominated for best picture by NBR
½ June 11, 2008
An unusually dark film for the era, John Ford's "Prisoner Of Shark Island" tells the story of Dr. Samuel Mudd, the physician who was sentenced to life in prison for medically attending to John Wilkes Booth, the assassin of Abraham Lincoln. The tale is told well in the hands of Ford, and is full of colorful Fordian characters which make this bit of history/cinema very compelling.
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