I'm Joe Bob Briggs, TNT's resident movie expert, and I got a bona fide
classic for you tonight. Nothing like a good old-fashioned prison film to
bring out the natural tendencies of our audience here on "Joe Bob's
Hollywood Saturday Night," and tonight we've got one of the strangest AND
most beloved of prison movies, "The Shawshank Redemption," which came out
in 1994 but kinda LOOKS LIKE it came out in 19-FIFTY-four. It's got
picturesque prisoners in it. And even though it might be Tim Robbins' best
performance ever, it was Morgan Freeman who got most of the attention and
the awards when it came out. And even though it may be the best Stephen
King film ever made, they didn't even promote it as a Stephen King film.
In fact, some of THE best Stephen King movies almost DISGUISE the fact
that Big Steve is involved. This one, "Misery," "The Shining" -- it wasn't
"Stephen King's The Shining," it was "Stanley Kubrick's The Shining,"
wasn't it?, back in the days before Stanley had to die in order to pump up
the box office on his films.
For the record, this was filmed at the Mansfield Reformatory in Mansfield, Ohio, right after they closed it down. It was there for a hundred years, and it was a grim, grim place, as you'll see. But it's not a grim movie. Not by any means. Rusty the Mail Girl will be joining me a little later as we enjoy one of the best movies of the last 20 years. "The Shawshank Redemption." Four stars. I'll do the drive-in totals at the first break.
[fading] My probation officer is not anywhere in the building, is he? That whole thing was a misunderstanding.
When all those new prisoners get off the bus -- the "fresh fish," as they call em -- the guy who's TAUNTING them is . . . Morgan Freeman's son in real life. [doorbell] And, of course, the captain of the guard who brutally beats the blubbery fat guy is . . . The Kurgan! Clancy Brown of "Highlander" fame. "The Kurgan."
[opening door, Rusty enters]
And Rusty, thank you for coming over, you are here JUST IN TIME for the drive-in totals and then we're gonna check in with a few of the prisoners in our audience, right? All the people involved in making this movie are very sympathetic to the American prison population, and we thought it was appropriate on this Thanksgiving weekend to mention them.
RUSTY: I have some letters from jail, and they've been properly cleared by the censors.
Great. I know they have guys that open the letters and make sure the criminal is not doing anything illegal.
RUSTY: No, I mean the TNT censors.
Oh, they're even STRICTER. Okay, we'll get to that in a minute. But
first let's do the drive-in totals for this great movie, "The Shawshank
Redemption." We have:
Five dead bodies.
One knife attack.
Bullet to the back.
Multiple trips to The Hole.
Gratuitous Mozart. Four stars.
[fading] Remember when the warden sends Gene Wilder to The Hole in Stir Crazy? The guard goes to let him out and he says "I'm sorry, but I was just starting to enjoy it. Can't I stay a while longer?" It's funny in context.
I gotta tell you my favorite story about this movie. In that scene where the old man says "Are you gonna eat that?" and Tim Robbins gives him the maggot, and you think he's gonna eat but he feeds it to his bird -- the ASPCA was monitoring the movie, and the ASPCA representative said they could not feed a live maggot to that bird, because it would be "cruel to the maggot." And the only way they would approve that scene was if they used a maggot that had died of natural causes. So that's what they did. And then the next day, when Tim Robbins came to the set, somebody on the crew had built a tiny little director's chair out of match sticks, and it had a little cloth back on it, and on the cloth back it read "MAGGOT."
RUSTY: Do you want to read one of these now?
Naw, I'm enjoying the movie too much.
RUSTY: I agree with that decision. I don't think you should kill living things.
You don't think you should kill a maggot on a 30 million dollar movie, or however hell the much it cost?
"Oh yes, you're so right, Mr. ASPCA person. We couldn't possibly kill a maggot just for a scene in a movie. Wham! Hey, what a coincidence! Here's a dead one right here on this table."
RUSTY: Very funny.Who's the first letter from?
RUSTY: David Webb of the Arizona State Prison at Rincon. [handing Joe Bob the letter]
David, this next segment of "The Shawshank Redemption," after the commercials, is dedicated to you. Oh! You'll appreciate this next part. He says his dad is a pastor at Beacon Baptist Church in Lorain, Ohio. This warden is kind of a fundamentalist, too, isn't he? "Prison is not what the media makes it out to be. There hasn't been one fight since I have been here, which has been five months." Well, THAT wouldn't make a very good movie, would it David?, so let's stick with the Hollywood version, okay?
Sorry, but there were no twist-off-cap beer bottles in 1949. Beers were almost always in cans. Especially the beers you'd find at a prison. Anyhoo, what we got there, Rusty?
RUSTY: This is a letter from Rogelio Solorio from Ironwood State Prison in Blythe, California.
Ironwood -- that's a serious prison. Similar to the prison we're watching in this movie. Except the prisoners in this movie are cleaner. What's Rogelio say?
RUSTY: He says the movies are getting boring and the thousands of guys at Ironwood would like to protest all the "reruns."
Well, you know, reruns ARE a problem for guys watching TV 23 hours a day, but I'll do what I can, Rogelio. Rogelio! Take a tip from Tim Robbins. Play a little chess! Better yet, carve yourself a chess board! Okay, a few commercial announcements, and then back to "The Shawshank Redemption," based on the 1982 Stephen King novella "Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption." You have a little Rita Hayworth in ya, Rusty.
RUSTY: Thank you. I think.
Oh yeah, that's a compliment. You've got the legs AND the hair.
RUSTY: Thank you.
You're welcome. Rogelio! Free your mind and your butt will follow! Kinda the theme of this movie.
The great James Whitmore as the elderly inmate Brooks The Librarian. James Whitmore came out of retirement to make this movie, he hadn't worked for seven years. In film. Always worked a lot on stage, most notably as Will Rogers, the role that made him famous. Did you notice that they said "tax season" coincided with the start of baseball season, so that Andy could do all the tax returns for the guards from the other prisons? Well, in the fifties and sixties, income tax was not due on April 15. It was due on MARCH 15. Take it from the son of an old IRS agent.
RUSTY: Your dad was an IRS agent?
RUSTY: Well, THAT explains a lot.
You know, I have so many people tell me this is their favorite movie in the world. So why didn't anybody go to it when it came out in the theater? It got seven Oscar nominations, but the box office on it was pitiful.
RUSTY: It's the title.
"Shawshank Redemption" is a GREAT title. In fact, I like the original one: "Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption."
RUSTY: It's hard to know what it's about.
What should they have called it?
RUSTY: I don't know.
See? Same problem they had at Castle Rock Entertainment. They actually tried out a thousand different titles, and then stuck with the one they'd started with, but they took Rita Hayworth out of it, cause it was causing confusion. They had actresses calling up saying they wanted to BE Rita Hayworth in the movie.
RUSTY: Are you finished with that?
Would you marry a guy in prison?
Lotta girls marry guys in prison. What was that Playboy Playmate that married a Menendez brother.
RUSTY: I don't understand that.
And then he CHEATED on her. He started writing to ANOTHER Playboy Playmate. And he got the addresses wrong and she found one of the letters.
RUSTY: Talk about looking a gift horse in the mouth.
That's a lesson for humanity, isn't it? Lyle Menendez couldn't stay faithful to a Playboy Playmate while serving a life sentence. He felt CONFINED by the relationship.
Would that really happen in real life? If you played "The Marriage of Figaro" over a loudspeaker at, let's say, Rahway State Prison in Jersey, would a thousand inmates stop dead in their tracks and groove to the Italian aria?
RUSTY: It's not supposed to be realistic, Joe Bob.
I thought it WAS supposed to be realistic. Also, that part about Brooks keeping the pet bird and setting it free -- "Go, fly, be free!" -- isn't that a direct steal from Birdman of Alcatraz?
RUSTY: People don't remember all the movies like you do.
So you like this part?
RUSTY: I love it. Do you want another letter?
No, let's talk about this. Does this seem like a prison to you? This seems like a nice place to hang out.
RUSTY: Your point?
I don't know. I forgot.
RUSTY: It's a movie prison.
It's actually Mansfield State Reformatory in Ohio. You ever been to Mansfield?
That's what makes this prison scary. Mansfield is on that flat part of Ohio where, you know, you see a strip shopping center, you wanna stop and take snapshots.
RUSTY: Your point?
Mansfield is one of those very nice towns . . . that's SCARY. That's it. You know who was REALLY imprisoned in Mansfield? In this very prison they're using in the movie?
RUSTY: No, but I think you're going to tell me.
Kevin Mack, the great running back for the Cleveland Browns. AND Gates Brown, played for the Detroit Tigers. They specialized in athletic criminals.
RUSTY: I like this movie.
I do, too! You can discuss it and still LIKE IT! I love it! Let me go on record, unequivocally: I LOVE THIS MOVIE! Jeez.
That's Gil Bellows as the young hothead Tommy Williams, but the role was originally given to Brad Pitt. Brad backed out of the movie due to "scheduling conflicts." BAD movie to back out of, Brad.
Okay, thanks for the "Joe Bob's Jail Break" mail, Rusty, and by the way, anybody can contact us at Joe Bob at turner dot com, or snail mail at 1010 Techwood Drive, Atlanta 30318, OR you can go our website at www dot tnt dot turner dot com forward slash joebob. All right, let's watch some commercials and then move it along here. Shawshank prison, where the troubled young prisoner throws his GED test in the trash can. Is this becoming sort of like an ABC After School Special? First Mozart, then the whole fix-up-the-library subplot, then the "Education is important, little Tommy" sequence-what happened to the brutal gang rapists? They got rid of them entirely, didn't they? RUSTY: Oh, you miss them, do you? What does that mean?
Some people think this movie is Tim Robbins' finest moment. I agree with that. As an actor. Of course, as a DIRECTOR, his other prison movie, Dead Man Walking, is pretty fine, too. At the time he made "Shawshank," Tim Robbins had just been banned from the Oscars, because one year on the Oscar telecast he denounced President Clinton's Haitian policy. Remember they were keeping all those Haitians with AIDS in a virtual prison colony down in Guantanamo Bay? He spoke out about that, and the guy who runs the Oscars said he would never be invited back. But see, it's kinda hard to keep a guy away from the Oscars when he keeps getting NOMINATED for em. Tim Robbins is a big theater guy. You know how people always say "Los Angeles theater is better than New York theater; we have MORE theaters out here." And people from New York go, "Are these people heavily medicated or WHAT?" Well, the reason they're saying that is that Tim Robbins does have one of the three or four theaters that ARE better than New York theater companies. The Actors Gang Theater. He started out doing street theater in New York, back when his dad Gil ran the Theater for the New City. His dad was in that folk singing group that did "Michael Row the Boat Ashore," and in the sixties all the hippie types did theater. We know this from the painful street-theater scenes in Billy Jack, among other fine sixties films. Okay, I'll shut up. We're coming up on the action- packed final act of "The Shawshank Redemption."
[fading] My two personal favorite Tim Robbins roles are Fraternity Vacation -- of course, I mean, everybody loves that movie -- and then Howard the Duck. I thought he was underrated in that one.
Get the idea that maybe something is up? So do I. Let's go to the commercials and then get back to the movie. Morgan Freeman says "That was the longest night of my life." This whole movie is a love story, right? A Huckleberry Finn type lifelong friendship story between Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman. You know that line when they first meet and Tim Robbins says "Why do they call you Red?" And Morgan Freeman says "Maybe it's because I'm Irish!" And he laughs. The script was written that way because the character in the novella WAS Irish. But they cast Morgan Freeman in the part and just left the line in. Kinda weird, unless you remember "Riverdance." Right in the middle of "Riverdance," these black people come out and sing about freedom or something. There ARE three or four black people in Ireland. And Morgan Freeman was one of em. Okay, enough.
[fading] Actually he's a Mississippian. Has a farm down there in Charleston, Mississippi. Mississippi people are the best. Love it there.
The movie SEEMS like it's over right now, doesn't it? But the best part is still to come. I just have two questions. That warden is obviously a foot shorter than Tim Robbins. How did his suit fit him so perfectly? AND where did he find a dry cleaner that could get the sewage off it that fast? Actually I have three questions. How did he hang the Raquel Welch poster over the hole in the wall after he was already in the tunnel? There I go, SPOILING the movie again. Okay, a couple commercials, and then the great conclusion to "The Shawshank Redemption." [fading] Directed by Frank Darabont, whose biggest claim to fame before this movie was "Buried Alive," which he directed for USA Network in 1991. Basically a writer: "The Fly II," Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. He hasn't directed anything SINCE this movie, until yet ANOTHER Stephen King prison movie, starring Tom Hanks, called The Green Mile, which comes out December 17th. Probably one of the biggest pictures of the year. He's a Stephen King prison specialist.
Oh, and lest we forget, Frank Darabont was also the co-writer on Nightmare on Elm Street THREE, which was one of the best ones. Castle Rock Entertainment wanted to BUY Darabont's script for "The Shawshank Redemption." They wanted to buy it and give it to another director. They offered him $2.4 million. And he TURNED IT DOWN, so that he could direct himself. Wow. Let me repeat: Wow.
That last scene on the beach -- the director, Frank Darabont, really
didn't wanna shoot that. He thought, "Heavy-handed, sentimental -- we all
know where Red is going, why show it?" Even after the movie was finished,
he wanted to take it off the film. Makes the movie too long, he thought.
The movie should end when Red carves his name next to Brooks's name and
leaves the rooming house. So they showed it to preview audiences with both
endings. The audiences LOVED the little scene on the beach, so they left
it in. Great movie. Exhausting movie, but great.
After that sewer escape scene, I still feel like I need a shower. That's what women always say. "You know what I need? I need a long hot bath." You're maybe talking about your tax return or something, and right in the middle of that: "Mmmmmm, I can't think about that right now, I just want a long hot bath." And you're thinking, "Were we talking about hygiene? Cause I don't remember mentioning BODY CLEANSING as part of this presentation to the board." They talk about a bath like it's something SEPARATE from cleaning the dirt off your body. Sometimes they even make it a sexual thing. "How bout a nice long hot bath, with lots of oils and bubbles, and we'll light candles all around the tub." NO. That does NOT sound interesting to me. That sounds GUNKY. I'm gonna get in there, and there's NOT gonna be enough room, and she's gonna say "Hold me." She'll want to "cuddle." Or you know what's worse than cuddling? She'll want to "snuggle."
"Let's snuggle while we luxuriate in the nice warm hot bath with the aromatherapy and the essence-of-lavender body grease and the candles that are gonna get water slopped all over em. Here, I'll do your back." And then later on it's like, "Now. Don't you feel better? After that LONG HOT BATH." NO! I DON'T FEEL BETTER. A bathtub is for removing DIRT from your ARMPITS. They talk about it like it's a psychiatric counseling session or something. "Oh, I feel so much better. I can deal with the world now." WHAT! You can DEAL WITH THE WORLD NOW? Because you DIPPED YOURSELF, like a cow getting sprayed for brucellosis? Are you CRAZY? We're filling out the W-2 form! You don't need a BATH to do that! I'm sorry -- obviously I've been there, right? I won't dump it on you.
"The Shawshank Redemption" is available on video and on DVD