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Organized Film Discussions => Previous Film Discussions => Topic started by: KC on January 30, 2005, 11:41:54 PM

Title: ESCAPE FROM ALCATRAZ: The Story 5: The King of the Mountain
Post by: KC on January 30, 2005, 11:41:54 PM
"English" is a fictional character, but he seems to be loosely based on real-life Alcatraz inmate Joe Carnes. Carnes, a Choctaw Indian, was the prison librarian and helped the men plan their escape. In the exercise yard, he would sit upon the top step, overlooking the yard with Ellsworth "Bumpy" Johnson, "the Black Capone of Harlem":

The two men played chess every Saturday on the top row of the "bleachers," the concrete terraces in the Alcatraz recreation yard that looked like giant steps leading up from the yard to the blank wall and foundation supporting the cellhouse. Inmates used the steps as seats from which they could view the handball courts and softball diamond and, in general, scan the entire recreation yard. The top step was reserved for only the most revered or feared cons, or maybe both. Having earned the privilege of sitting there meant you were always in the sun, if there was any sunshine to be had, compared with sitting on the lower, cold steps, where the sunlight was blocked by the high walls of the yard. From the top step an inmate could see over the walls. There was a panoramic view of San Francisco Bay, the San Francisco city skyline, the Golden Gate Bridge, and Sausalito.

The top step belonged to Bumpy Johnson. Any con who dared join Bumpy and Joe Carnes up there without Bumpy's approval was foolish. Sooner or later he would receive a severe beating or a knife puncture.
(Riddle of the Rock, by Don DeNevi, p. 59-60)

In Escape from Alcatraz, English, the prison librarian, sits on the top step looking over the recreation yard. Morris climbs the steps, passing only black prisoners as he gets closer to the top. One man tries to stop Morris as he attempts to pass him, but English motions that it's okay. Morris continues to the top:

MORRIS: Something special about those steps?

ENGLISH: The higher you sit, the more status you got. So we kind of play "King of the Mountain." Except here we don't play for fun, man.

MORRIS: And you're King?


(Morris nods, and starts heading down the steps)

ENGLISH: Now I figure there's two reasons why you didn't sit down on my step. Either you're too scared, or you just hate @#*%!&s. Now which is it, boy? You too scared? Hmm?

MORRIS: (Goes back up the steps and sits down beside English) Nah, I just hate @#*%!&s.

English is serving two consecutive life sentences for being found guilty by an all-white jury of killing two white men, although it was really an act of self-defense. English shows a mistrust and prejudice toward white men that is apparent from his first scene. Yet, he grants Morris, still a relatively new prisoner, permission to sit with him at the top of the steps. Why do you think English trusts Morris so quickly and easily? Why do these men get along so well?
Title: Re: ESCAPE FROM ALCATRAZ: The Story 5: The King of the Mountain
Post by: dane with no name on February 15, 2005, 07:33:09 AM
I think English sees something of himself in Morris in the prison library at the beginning. Here we have two men who doesnt take $#!t from anyone, and there´s still some mutual respect. English sees a man in morris who doesnt accept where he is and wants to do something about it.
English finds out pretty quick that morris is going to escape and he wont get in the way, mainly because he wont ruin the chance for freedom for anyone since he himself is going to stay behind bars forever. 
Maybe helping Morris along (and any other cons who might want to escape) is English´s way of fighting the system and the warden in his own silent manner...
Title: Re: ESCAPE FROM ALCATRAZ: The Story 5: The King of the Mountain
Post by: The Schofield Kid on March 04, 2006, 09:23:14 PM
English was impressed with the way Morris handled himself with his confrontation with Wolf in the shower and maybe Morris reminded him of himself in the similar situation that got him sent to Alcatraz,and thought it would be better to have this man as a friend than an enemy.
Helping in the escape plan,he knew he was never getting out and did it just for the satisfaction of seeing someone beat the Rock.
Title: Re: ESCAPE FROM ALCATRAZ: The Story 5: The King of the Mountain
Post by: KC on April 03, 2007, 06:12:30 PM
Thanks to everyone for participating in this discussion. This topic is now closed, please post any additional thoughts in the General Discussion forum.