Cinema: Escape Vehicle

PAPILLON

Directed by FRANKLIN J. SCHAFFNER

Screenplay by DALTON TRUMBO and LORENZO SEMPLE JR.

It is nice to see French Guiana again. The French may have shut down the infamous penal system they used to maintain there, but it still flourishes as a country of the mind, a Disneyland for masochists, in the imagination of moviemakers. For them the guards will always and universally be sadistic brutes, the prisoners either nice guys or people doing time for bad raps.

Some—like Henry Charriere (Steve McQueen), whose nickname, Papillon (Butterfly), is symbolized in a tattoo on his chest—are endlessly obsessed with plans for escape. Others,...

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