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The Prisoner of Shark Island

USA 1936
produced by
Darryl F. Zanuck, Nunnally Johnson (associate) for 20th Century Fox
directed by John Ford
starring Warner Baxter, Gloria Stuart, Claude Gillingwater, Arthur Byron, O.P. Heggie, Harry Carey, Francis Ford, John McGuire, Francis McDonald, Douglas Wood, John Carradine, Joyce Kay, Fred Kohler jr, Ernest Whitman, Paul Fix, Frank Shannon, Frank McGlynn sr, Leila McIntyre, Etta McDaniel, J.M. Kerrigan, Arthur Loft, Paul McVey, Maurice Murphy, Cecil Weston, Lloyd Whitlock
written by Nunnally Johnson, music by R.H. Bassett, Hugo Friedhofer

Abraham Lincoln, John Wilkes Booth

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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1865: Abraham Lincoln (Frank McGlynn sr) has just been shot by John Wilkes Boothe (Francis McDonald), and upon his escape, Boothe breaks a leg, which he has fixed by Dr Mudd (Warner Baxter), who has no idea who Boothe is or what he has done. Boothe is later killed upon his further escape, but the American public wants revenge for the killing of their leader, so the army rounds up eight alleged conspirators, no matter if they are guilty or not, and has them convicted in a trial that doesn't deserve that name and that does not do justice any service. Seven of the men are executed, but the eight, the totally innocent Dr Mudd, whose only crime was to treat a severed leg, is condemned to life in prison, and sent to the feared Shark Island, where the sadistic head warden (John Carradine) swears to personally see to it that his stay is anything but comfortable.

With the help of his wife (Gloria Stuart) and Buck (Ernest Whitman), a former slave of his who has become a prison guard to act on his behalf, Mudd tries to make an escape, but doesn't even get to shore, and as a result, he and Buck are thrown into the hole and treated like animals.

Then though, Shark Island is hit by yellow fever, which plagues guards and convicts alike, and kills the only doctor on the island (O.P. Heggie) - and thus, Mudd is promoted to prison physician by the prison's commandant (Harry Carey). But Mudd can't do much as there is virtually no medication at hand and the ship that's supposd to bring in the medication refuses to dock out of fear of infection ... so he, who already shows first igns of yellow fever himself, orders to guards to fire a cannon at the ship - which ultimately saves the day ...

In face of his heroism, Mudd is granted a retrial, and eventually he is released a free man and hero.


Let's face it, this is a film that is not exactly kitsch-free - in fact it is filled with clichées to the brink -, and it's a bit too eager to divide its world into good and evil ... but it's also retty well-made: The story moves at a very steady pace, there's hardly a dull moment, the setpieces (especially Mudd's escape attempt during a storm) are all very well executed, the whole thing is atmospheric as can be, and while it might not be a classic due to its cheesy undercurrents, it's at least very good entertainment.



review © by Mike Haberfelner


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Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
cuddly toys and
shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner


Out now from




On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide


A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD