September 23rd, 2014 marks the twentieth anniversary of the release of The Shawshank Redemption, which has ranked as my favorite movie ever since I first saw it, which was probably about 2 years after it came out. To celebrate the milestone, I watched the movie again for around the 20th time (at least) and kept a running diary of it. If you have not seen it, you must, must, must watch it. Right now. Go. Otherwise, read on.
00:00:10 (DVD Run time) ♪”If I didn’t care, more than words can say”♪…the music fades and we see Andy Dufresne in the car outside of a house…UH OH HE HAS A GUN! AND LOTS OF SHELLS. AND VODKA…this will not end well.
00:02:14 “I’ll see you in hell before I see you in Reno” – that seems a bit harsh from Andy, after all I’ve been to Reno and it’s not that bad. But how did this case look to the prosecutors and the jury: he confesses to being outside the house, mad at his wife for having an affair, with a gun on the night she was murdered.
00:04:17 “Since I’m innocent of this crime, I find it decidedly inconvenient” – your freedom is on the line, Dufresne, and you get sarcastic with the prosecutor…seems cold. I cannot remember whether or not I thought he was guilty first time I watched this movie, but looking back I’m starting to think he might have actually done it and isn’t, you know “fo’real innocent”
00:06:14 – Red’s first parole hearing (that we see) out of three. I love how he’s clearly just reciting rote answers to questions, then comes out and tells his friends “Same shit, different day”, with the futility of the proceedings being pointed out by another prisoner saying “I’m up for rejection next week”.
00:07:58 “There must be a con like me in every prison in America” – and in Orange is the New Black, she even has the same nickname, Red!
00:08:27 This is the first shot of the prison, which is actually in Mansfield, Ohio. My wife took me there last summer and it was simultaneously fascinating to see the place where my favorite movie was shot; and horrifying to think that people were actually incarcerated in such a shithole that had so much lead in the paint, we could both feel it in our lungs by the time we left. Also, our tour guide said he had NEVER SEEN THE SHAWSHANK REDMEPTION…but he did buy into a whole load of ghost stories about the place so we got to hear a lot about them.
00:11:00 I really do not know whether or not after enough time had passed in prison, I would find myself willing to bet on which new inmate would break first…but if I did, the guy wearing a bow tie who is in tears while he is being marched in would definitely be my choice.
00:11:57 On the tour, you get to walk into the prison and look up at the same angle as Andy does as he is being marched in. I tried to take a video that would replica the movie but it fell short on two counts: 1) Frank Darabont is a great director; 2) I was using an iPhone.
00:12:50 Warden Norden makes his authority known by having Hadley beat someone for daring to ask when they eat, then tells the prisoners “Put your faith in the Lord, your ass belong to me…(muttering) and the sisters.”
00:14:35 I don’t mean to spoil the ending for anybody who might be watching along with this and has never seen it before (which will literally be zero people so I’m just going to go ahead and spoil) but how lucky was it that Andy got an end cell. And also for Heywood that “fat-ass” (sorry I do not know if he had any other name in the movie) was his neighbor and he got to wind him up until he broke.
00:15:34 We now take a break in this running diary to get an article from Buzzfeed…
The 7 Best Lines in the Scene When Fat-Ass Breaks Down Crying
1. “You’ll wish your Daddy never dicked your Mommy”
2. “Poke your ass out, give me a first look”.
3. “And it’s Fat Ass, by a nose!”
4. “I want my Mommy” “I had your Mommy, she wasn’t that great!”
5. Hadley: “What the Christ is this happy horse shit” Inmate: “He took the Lord’s name in vain. I’m telling the warden”.
6. “What is your malfunction you fat barrel of monkey spunk” – Captain Hadley the charmer.
7. “You run this place like a fucking prison!”
Then Hadley beats Fat Ass to death and it doesn’t all quite seem so funny…still number 5 was great.
00:21:00 There is a brutal brilliance to the way Haywood is rejoicing over winning cigarettes (“Richmond, Virginia” “Smell my ass!”), then when he asks how Fat Ass is doing, his gleefulness is cut down when Tyrell tells him that he died. Andy then irks Heywood by trying to give some honor to the victim by at least asking his name – because he clearly did not hear them all calling him Fat Ass.
00:22:30 While Andy’s breakfast did not suggest that he was going to be accepted into a new group of friends, his first shower experience helps him to see that some people in prison can be nice as Bogs offers to be a friend to him. Maybe they’ll play checkers together and eventually work on a boat. He seemed friendly at least.
00:24:10 Red and Andy’s first conversation is awesome for four reasons: 1) Dufresne opens up and tells Red that he did not commit the crime he is incarcerated for, only to find out that everyone else makes that same claim; 2) Andy again gets cut down when he assures his new friend he does not have any enemies inside, only to be told “Yeah? Wait a while”; 3) the conversation actually forebodes much of the film, even though it is not Andy’s intention to tunnel with the rock hammer when he first requests it (oops, spoiler); and 4) when Dufresne asks why they call him “Red”, he replies “maybe it’s because I’m Irish”, which is a reference to the original Stephen King novella where the character was a redheaded Irishman.
The conversation is not awesome for one reason: at some point Red catches the baseball twice in a row without ever throwing it back. Once you see it, you cannot help but notice it.
00:29:27 What bothers me is not knowing if the guy in the laundry knew that the sisters were waiting for Andy in the back room. Did he really send him in there to get the Hexlite and it was it just bad luck? He had to be in on it right?
00:30:30 “I wish I could tell you Andy fought the good fight, I wish I could tell you that, but prison is no fairy tale” – I’ve probably referenced that line a thousand times in the last 20 years…
00:31:24 – Some great insight from Red “I do believe those first two years were the worst for Andy”. Wait, you think the period of time where he was being raped and beaten, constantly having to look over his shoulder and not knowing when they might strike, you think that was the worst? Not the point when he was running the prison library, doing taxes for the inmate and getting free pie from the warden? Okay, if you say so Red, I guess you do know him best.
00:32:25 I love the scene when they’re tarring the roof of the license-plate factory (do prisoners still make license plates now?) – the whole bit is just wondrous: from Hadley’s bitching about inheriting money; the “Do you trust your wife?” question from Andy – deliberately being obtuse to get a rise out of Hadley even if it nearly got him thrown off the roof; and the guard who was a surgeon in E.R. scoffing when Dufresne refers to his fellow prisoners as “co-workers”.
00:37:18 Red describes chess as “a total fucking mystery” but he’s been in prison for 22 years – surely by that point he would know every board or card game that was available to him. I enjoy how Andy maintains his innocence with a smirk almost not to give away the fact that he actually did not do it, then Red confesses to being the only guilty man in Shawshank. In the book, he cut the breaks of his rich wife’s car and ended up killing her and some other people; but I do not believe they ever mention his crime in the movie.
00:42:03 “You know how to read, you ignorant fuck?” – even in the face of adversity, Andy can still make fun of Bogs. My question, does Hadley beat the shit out of him for doing that to Dufresne because he now has an affinity for the wife-killing-banker who helped him out with his taxes; or was it just a good excuse for him to use his baton on a prisoner…actually I just answered my own question.
00:44:17 Poor Heywood; he does not understand why Andy’s affinity for chess means they should get him rocks, then he picks up some horse shit.
00:48:48 “Salvation lies within” – so does my rock hammer, warden!
00:50:36 I wonder if us millennials will refer to years in the way old timers like Brooks Hadlen does…”Well let me see, I got my first camera phone in ‘ought five'”.
00:53:06 One thing is for sure, no matter how old I get, I will never refer to anybody’s asshole as “puckering up tighter than a snare drum”.
00:55:58 Brooks certainly picked his victim from the group well, putting a sharp object to Heywood’s throat and everyone still feeling sorry for the old man and nothing for the guy who was threatened with having his throat cut.
00:58:20 I’m actually wondering why this is my favorite movie, as much of the first hour is so depressing; in particular the scene where Brooks is released and then takes his own life because he cannot cope on the outside (beautifully scored by Thomas Newman). Three things about this very depressing scene: 1) the room where Brooks stays and then hangs himself is actually inside the real-life prison and the “Brooks was here” “So was Red” carvings are still there; 2) there is a deleted scene where the other inmates find Jake the crow dead in the prison yard, but thankfully they thought that would be just too much for the audience to take; and 3) another great quote I’ve referenced far too often “Make sure your man double bags. Last time he didn’t double bag and bottom damn near fell out”.
01:02:55 After such a saddening sequence, thankfully they next give us one of the best scenes in the movie: when Andy gets the library books he’s been waiting for. It’s great how the loaf-pinching guard says “good for you, Andy” under his breath because he is happy for him, but does not want to get in trouble. The playing of the aria from The Marriage of Figaro is such an appropriately operatic choice, really just an amazing moment. Of course, the Warden has to ruin it, but not before Dufresne bluffs him by going for the off switch, but then turning it up. Brilliant. Red’s narration tells us that Andy got two weeks in the hole for playing that music – compared with the one week that Bogs got when he beat Dufresne to within an inch of his life…it’s like the prison system is not built upon justice or something.
01:09:00 In the philosophical debate between Andy and Red about whether or not it makes sense to hold onto music in prison, with the underlying goal of keeping some hope, I would like to think that under those circumstances, I would side with Dufresne. However, when Red says “Hope is a dangerous thing. Hope can drive a man insane”, it just rings so true to me as a Tottenham supporter, who both somehow got caught up into believing we might be good this season and then watched us lose ineptly to Liverpool and West Brom. It is not the despair, it’s the hope that gets you – Red is right. Sorry Andy.
01:09:58 Red’s second parole hearing is verbatim the same as the first one we saw, other than the fact that the number of years he has been inside has gone up to 30 and he delivers his lines with much less gusto, not believing he has any chance of getting out – maybe not even wanting to be released, given what happened to Brooks.
01:13:45 Once again, Heywood provides some comic relief when Dufrense gets even more funds and books from the state senate for the library and he is reading the titles “The Count of Monte Crisco…by Alexandree Dumass”. And then when he sings along with Hank Williams: “I don’t know what I’d doo-ooo” – just great.
01:16:40 When the guy offers a pie with a bribe to Warden Norden to ensure he cannot use the inmate work-crew on a highway project, the envelope is clearly stuffed with $1 bills, making the bribe about $9. Add that to the fact that the Warden does not rate the woman’s cooking either, he was a cheap payoff.
01:18:48 While Andy had to fight hard in order to get books in the library, the prisoners clearly get to see plenty of films. Alongside the Rita Hayworth picture we see them watching, they have also seen The Seven Year Itch (released in 1955 and inspiration for the Marilyn Monroe poster); and Harvey (released 1950), as Dufresne refers to Randall Stevens – the guy he invented to clear himself and the Warden from any guilt on the paper trail of the embezzlement – as second cousin to Harvey the Rabbit.
01:21:00 I could listen to an hour of Tommy Williams telling stories of getting caught doing crimes. I do enjoy how many random people from this movie went on to other roles on TV – Tommy was in Ally McBeal; the guard who was Romano in ER; and one of Red’s group of friends was Richie Aprile, who married – and was then killed by – Janice in The Sopranos.
01:28:03 At this point we finally find out that Andy is innocent – as Heywood puts it “for-real innocent” – and everything that he’s been through these past 19 years just got a whole lot worse. On the plus side, he’s made some good friends and gets to call the Warden “obtuse”.
01:31:11 “Kid passed, C+ average. Thought you’d like to know” – yeah go on, lift us up before you kill poor Tommy.
01:35:26 “I’ll move you out of that one-bunk Hilton and cast you down with the sodomites. You’ll think you’ve been fucked by a train” – did Norden go through any kind of screening process to get the Warden job? Do they not even do a cursory check to see if the person is a sadistic, embezzling scumbag? I guess not…
01:36:46 The conversation between Red and Andy, where first Dufresne talks about driving his wife away even if he didn’t kill her; then ends with him telling his friend about something buried under an oak tree in a hayfield in Buxton, is absolutely fantastic. On first viewing, it seems as though Andy is resigned to never getting out because the truth about his wife and Elmo Blatch has died with Tommy, but second time around you realize he’s preparing his friend on what to do when he escapes. When I first saw this movie – which was probably in 1996 on video – I spent ages looking on a globe for exactly where Zihuatenejo was, but without Google – or knowing exactly how to spell it – I did find out where it was until several years after my first search. Another thing I took from that scene; every single time I’ve been by the Pacific Ocean, I’ll ask my wife if she knows what the Mexicans say about it…
Here are the awesome things about Andy’s escape plan: it was really thought out and covered all the bases – you know, except for the fact that he was acting in such a way his best friend thought he was going to kill himself; the rock hammer was hidden in the bible (salvation lay within) and the page you see is Exodus; he totally screwed over Warden Norden. Here are the issues I have with it: how did he know there was going to be a storm that night to cover the sound of banging the pipe; why did that pipe, that was open-ended, have so much pressure that the water would spray up?; and Red describes 500 yards as being just shy of half a mile, when in fact it would need to be 60% as long again to be that far.
Despite any inconsistencies (which only became apparent after half a dozen or so viewings), the final reveal – when Norden throws a rock at the picture of Raquel Welch – that Andy has escaped through a tunnel he has been digging behind his posters, is just fantastic. Not only does the innocent Dufresne escape, he also exposes the misdeeds at Shawshank to a prison, causing Captain Hadley to be arrested and the Warden to blow his own head off before he could suffer that same fate.
I wish I could see The Shawshank Redemption again for the first time, I cannot wait one day to show it to my daughter so she can see this amazing ending without knowing what is coming.
01:59:35 I just adore the scene when the group of friends are talking about Andy and Heywood is reminiscing about when they were tarring the license plate factory roof – it seems so real and genuine.
02:07:15 Hate to break the news, but the oak tree where Red finds Andy’s note and the box with the cash in it, was struck by lightning and no longer exists. Great how Red looks around to see if anyone is watching him when he sees how much money is in the envelope.
02:12:04 Andy and Red come face to face on the beach in Zihuatenejo. It just got dusty in here…
Get busy living, or get busy dying. You’re goddamn right!