Six Against The Rock is a 1987 made for TV movie set, appropriately enough give the title of the film, off the shore of San Francisco, California in Alcatraz. The setting for more than a few action movies since it was closed down as a prison facility and turned into a tourist attraction (Point Blank and The Rock come to mind, both on opposite ends of the 'quality' spectrum) the isolation and dreariness of the prison makes for a great location in which to place some interesting characters and base your movie around.
The film takes place in May of 1946 and centers around a half a dozen prison inmates who come from different backgrounds and who are in for different crimes but who all share in their disdain for incarceration. The more time they spend inside, the harder it gets to handle and eventually the six men decide to formulate an escape plan. Seeing as Alcatraz is supposedly impossible to escape from, they've obviously got a few challenges to overcome in order to make this happen and this becomes the focus of the first half of the movie – not so much the escape itself, but how to make it happen without getting killed in the process.
David Carradine (of Kung Fu and Kill Bill) plays Bernie Coy, the supposed ring leader of the group and his idea to make this all work is to take over the cell house by force. The prisoners far outnumber the guards patrolling the prison and with a bit of planning and ingenuity, he's able to get some men together to make it happen. Of course, once the plan is set into action things come up, as they often do in life.
Aside from Carradine, there are a few other interesting casting choices in the film. Jan Michael Vincent sleepwalks through his role as an inmate, and Howard Hesseman, best known from his work on WKRP In Cincinnatti also plays a man behind bars. Dennis Farina of Law And Order and David Morse of The Green Mile also play inmates. The warden, always the villain in prison bust out movies, is played with a sufficient amount of disdain by Richard Dysart, of L.A. Law. Aside from Vincent, who may or may not be on something here, the performances are decent enough and the interesting casting choices do raise this one a notch or two above standard made for TV movie fare.
Director Paul Wendkos, who has worked almost exclusively in television since the late 1950s does a good job of keeping the pacing tight in the film. With a running time of just over an hour and a half (which would fit perfectly into a two hour time slot once you factor in commercial breaks) Six From The Rock is never a boring film, even if it is a very uneven one. The look is gritty enough to work, with plenty of disheveled looking men going through their daily routine inside a disheveled looking prison but ultimately, story-wise, it's pretty predictable fare. With the film being based on actual events, and fairly well known events at that, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out where it's all heading.
Seeing as this was a made for TV movie, it makes sense that the film is presented fullframe and the compositions back this up as they don't appear to be at all compromised. There's some moderate grain in a few scenes as well as some heavy line shimmering in spots but there aren't any problems with mpeg compression artifacts. Skin tones look a little bit on the flat side but overall the presentation is pretty solid as the black levels are good (though there are a couple of spots where they're more of a really dark grey than a true black) and there's a pretty decent level of detail in the foreground, if not so much in the background.
The English language Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono sound mix is decent enough for what it needs to be. While some scenes might be a bit more fun if there were some channel separation, the original mono mix has clear dialogue, decent level balancing and doesn't have any serious problems with hiss or distortion. It's a rather unremarkable mix but it does manage to get the job done without warranting any serious complaints.
Aside from chapter selection, this disc is completely barebones.
A moderately entertaining made for TV action film, Six Against The Rock gets a rather unremarkable barebones DVD release from Koch. The movie itself is entertaining even if the DVD doesn't stand out from the crowd, though it doesn't warrant much in the way of repeat viewing making this a decent rental and not much more.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.