Alcatraz

Sometimes a location itself overshadows any of the films that shot there, as is the case with Alcatraz Island.  Located just over a mile offshore from San Fransisco, the island is most well known for it’s decommissioned federal prison, which operated from 1934 until 1963. During it’s 29 years of activity, the prison was known for housing “the worst of the worst” criminals.  The list included Al Capone, Robert Franklin Stroud (the “Birdman of Alcatraz”), “Machine Gun” Kelly, James “Whitey” Bulger and Alvin “Creepy” Karpis, amongst others. The penitentiary famously claimed that no prisoner successfully escaped. Due to the high operational costs, as well as salt water erosion to the buildings, the prison was shut down in 1963. Today, the island is operated by the National Parks Services and public tours are available.

The prison island has been seen in many films, such as “The Rock,” “Murder in the First,” “Escape from Alcatraz,” “Birdman of Alcatraz” and many more.  Here we’ll take a closer look at the notorious island.

LOCATION: Alcatraz Island, San Francisco, CA 94133

The island view from San Francisco.

alcatraz1

Island view from the opposite side, where visitors dock.

alcatraz2

Utility house and power plant chimney.

alcatraz3

alcatraz4

A guard tower.

alcatraz5

The water tower, which still has a message from a Native American occupation of the island, which lasted from 1969 to 1971.

alcatraz6

The lighthouse tower.

alcatraz16

Some of the prison cell blocks.

alcatraz7

alcatraz12

alcatraz13

One of the typical prison cells.

alcatraz17

A solitary confinement cell.

alcatraz9

A cell where the most famous escape attempt was made, by widening a vent at the bottom of the cell.

alcatraz15

The prison yard.

alcatraz8

The gun gallery, where guards watched down over the prisoners. During one daring escape attempt, prisoners climbed up into this area and attacked the guards.

alcatraz11

A view of San Francisco from Alcatraz.

alcatraz14

The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

One of our favorite movie locations is the prison from “The Shawshank Redemption.”  While the film is set in Maine, tucked away in the fields of Mansfield, Ohio, the Ohio State Reformatory hosted the production of the film in 1993, after it had permanently closed from active prison use three years prior.

Originally built between 1886 to 1910, the facility was built in three architectural styles; Victorian Gothic, Richardsonian Romanesque and Queen Anne.  In the wake of a class action suit by the prisoners, which cited overcrowding and inhumane conditions, the prison was shut down in 1990, with a replacement prison built directly behind it, which is still active today.

After the enduring success of “The Shawshank Redemption,” The Mansfield Reformatory Preservation Society began work to restore the facility to its original state, as well as recreate many of the film’s sets.  They offer daily tours from April to September and weekend-only tours during the remaining seasons.  The restorations are funded through donations and tour fees.  The building housed a great deal of horrors, which can be felt as you explore the facility.  Over 200 people are said to have died inside the prison walls.  During Halloween season, the Preservation Society offers haunted tours in lieu of the film tours and a number of ghost-themed television shows have filmed at the location.  Yet outside, the place feels quiet and serene.  Other films to have shot at the prison include “Air Force One” and “Tango & Cash.”

If you find yourself in the area, I highly encourage you to take the tour, as it remains one of our all-time favorite film locations.  We do not wish to overlook the unfortunate history of this facility, however, with all of the atrocities that took place here.

LOCATION: 100 Reformatory Rd, Mansfield, OH 44905

shawshank

The front of the prison.  During tour hours, music from the film score plays over loud speakers.

shawshank2

shawshank3

shawshank4

shawshank5

shawshank6

“Get busy living, or get busy dying.”  The back of the prison is particularly difficult to photograph, as the tours do not cover this area, due to the facility directly facing an active prison.  You are not allowed to turn your camera towards the active prison at any time, under the warning of immediate expulsion from the property, if you are caught doing so.  There are guards from the active prison on constant lookout, to make sure no one is photographing the wrong prison.  However, we can provide a brief glimpse of the “yard” where Red and Andy would meet.

shawshank7

The parole room, where Red keeps returning for his hearings.  The table and chair props are not the originals, however, if I recall correctly.

shawshank8

This is where the inmates first line up to face the warden.

shawshank9

This is the warden’s office, where Andy locks the door and plays the music.  The actor playing the captain really did break the window to the door in the scene, which is still missing today.

shawshank10

The warden’s office, where his fate is met.

shawshank11

This is where the production cut a hole in the wall, for the warden’s safe.

shawshank12

The showers seen in the movie were the prison’s real showers.

shawshank13

The hole Andy makes in the pipeline.  This is the actual prop from the film.

shawshank14

This is a wide shot of the pipeline prop that Andy crawls through.  Might ruin a little movie magic for you.

shawshank15

While similar looking, this is the prop used for the hole in the wall, behind the Rita Hayworth poster.

shawshank16

Brooks’ apartment.  It was actually another room inside the prison.

shawshank17

This is unfortunately a replica.  The real ceiling beam was, at one time, located in this room, but it was stolen.  The Preservation Society recreated it.

shawshank18

Autographs from the film’s actors.

shawshank19

Autographed poster.

shawshank20

The cover from the crate prop, holding the library books that Andy had so frequently requested.

shawshank21

shawshank22

There’s really so much more to see inside the prison tour, such as the world’s tallest prison cell block.  These were not the cell blocks seen in the film, however.  The production opted to rent out a nearby warehouse and build their own set for the cell block, likely due to the unsanitary conditions of the real cell block.  You are warned not to touch anything in this area, for risk of needing a tetanus shot.  Since the rest of the features of the tour do not directly relate to the film, we will leave you with just one image of the many other, highly interesting things the tour has to offer.

shawshank23

Last, but not least, we leave you with one of Red’s prison shirts, which can be seen on display at Planet Hollywood in Florida.

shawshankredemption24

LOCATION: 1506 E Buena Vista Dr, Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830