Breakout (1975)

PG | 97 mins | Drama | 21 May 1975

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HISTORY

Columbia Pictures purchased the film rights to Eliot Asinof, Warren Hinckle, and William Turner’s 1973 book The 10-Second Jailbreak: The Helicopter Escape of Joel David Kaplan for $140,000, as announced in the 23 Apr 1973 and 24 May 1975 issues Publishers Weekly, respectively. A 14 May 1973 Publishers Weekly news item noted that Irwin Winkler and Robert Chartoff were planning to produce the film adaptation.
       On 22 Aug 1973, HR reported that Michael Ritchie had been hired to direct. However, Ritchie was replaced the following year by Tom Gries, as announced in a 3 May 1974 HR news item. At that time, Charles Bronson had already been cast as “Nick Colton” and production was scheduled to begin late Jun 1974 in Spain and Los Angeles, CA. Although a 5 Jun 1974 Var brief stated that filming was set to start 1 Jul 1974 in either Badajoz or Puerto de Santa Maria, Spain, a 27 Jun 1974 HR news item noted that the production was delayed to begin a week later, on 8 Jul 1974. However, the 22 Jul 1974 DV reported that principal photography would commence that day near Lancaster, CA. The production moved to locations in France and Spain mid-Sep 1974, as stated in the 13 Sep 1974 Var. A week after filming began, a 30 Jul 1974 DV brief, which announced the casting of John Huston as “Harris Wagner,” noted that Ron Buck was the film’s executive producer, but Buck is not credited onscreen. Breakout remained ... More Less

Columbia Pictures purchased the film rights to Eliot Asinof, Warren Hinckle, and William Turner’s 1973 book The 10-Second Jailbreak: The Helicopter Escape of Joel David Kaplan for $140,000, as announced in the 23 Apr 1973 and 24 May 1975 issues Publishers Weekly, respectively. A 14 May 1973 Publishers Weekly news item noted that Irwin Winkler and Robert Chartoff were planning to produce the film adaptation.
       On 22 Aug 1973, HR reported that Michael Ritchie had been hired to direct. However, Ritchie was replaced the following year by Tom Gries, as announced in a 3 May 1974 HR news item. At that time, Charles Bronson had already been cast as “Nick Colton” and production was scheduled to begin late Jun 1974 in Spain and Los Angeles, CA. Although a 5 Jun 1974 Var brief stated that filming was set to start 1 Jul 1974 in either Badajoz or Puerto de Santa Maria, Spain, a 27 Jun 1974 HR news item noted that the production was delayed to begin a week later, on 8 Jul 1974. However, the 22 Jul 1974 DV reported that principal photography would commence that day near Lancaster, CA. The production moved to locations in France and Spain mid-Sep 1974, as stated in the 13 Sep 1974 Var. A week after filming began, a 30 Jul 1974 DV brief, which announced the casting of John Huston as “Harris Wagner,” noted that Ron Buck was the film’s executive producer, but Buck is not credited onscreen. Breakout remained on Var production charts through 30 Oct 1974 with Buck listed as executive producer. A 28 May 1975 Var brief reported a $1 million budget.
       As noted in a 7 Oct 1974 Box news item, Gries publically declared the film a depiction of real events and characters, and his contention was reported in various news sources before the production was complete. In response, Chartoff-Winkler Productions and Columbia issued a formal statement that “clarified” the director’s claim, maintaining that the climactic prison escape scene was based on an actual incident, but the screenplay was entirely fictional. This appeal was met with antagonism from Bantam Books, which had purchased paperback rights to The 10-Second Jailbreak: The Helicopter Escape of Joel David Kaplan for $25,000 with the intention of issuing a “tie-in edition” of the book to coincide with the film’s release, as stated in the 24 Mar 1975 Publishers Weekly article. The producers further distanced the project from the Asinof-Hinckle-Turner book by refusing Bantam permission “to carry the picture’s title or cover copy naming its stars” and the publisher subsequently decided to resell the paperback rights. Publishers Weekly noted that the studio’s attempts to disassociate the film from the book were unconvincing, particularly because a condensed version of The 10-Second Jailbreak had been published in Playboy magazine with the same title as the movie, “Breakout.” Publishers Weekly speculated that Columbia’s insistence about the film’s fictionalization was due, in part, to Joel David Kaplan’s familial relationship with business magnate J. M. Kaplan, whose philanthropic “Kaplan Fund” was identified as a “CIA conduit” during a Congressional investigation of covert U.S. funding to Latin America. The 10-Second Jailbreak alluded to CIA involvement with Joel David Kaplan’s 1971 escape from the Mexican penitentiary, Santa Martha Acatitla, where Kaplan had been detained for nine years after he was convicted of murdering his business partner. J. M. Kaplan refused to comment on Publishers Weekly’s claim that he demanded an advance screening of Breakout.
       Despite the controversy, the picture was released with onscreen “suggested by” credit to The 10-Second Jailbreak and its authors in a $1.25 million marketing “saturation” campaign, as noted in a 19 May 1975 Box article. Columbia planned to open the film at approximately 1,400 screens nationwide on 21 May 1975 with notably “stringent terms for exhibitors,” according to the 19 May 1975 DV, including an unusual “two-week payment demand” and a requirement for nightly reporting. The article stated that Columbia was spending an “unprecedented” $3.6 million on television advertisements, but the studio expected to recoup $20 million in the first two weeks of the film’s opening. One week after the national release, the 28 May 1975 DV reported grosses of over $8.2 million at 1,320 theaters.
       The picture received generally negative reviews. The filmmakers’ obscure references to the CIA confused several critics, including Arthur Knight, who stated in his 29 Apr 1975 HR review that “somewhere between the concept and the screening room, someone seems to have added the notion of involving the CIA in the plot machinery… like a timely afterthought,” and A. H. Weiler, who commented in the 22 May 1975 NYT that the film’s vague “hints” to the CIA were never developed. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
7 Oct 1974.
---
Box Office
12 May 1975
p. 4780.
Box Office
19 May 1975
p. 4.
Daily Variety
22 Jul 1974.
---
Daily Variety
30 Jul 1974.
---
Daily Variety
9 Oct 1974.
---
Daily Variety
19 May 1975
p. 1, 18.
Daily Variety
28 May 1975.
---
Hollywood Reporter
22 Aug 1973.
---
Hollywood Reporter
3 May 1974.
---
Hollywood Reporter
27 Jun 1974.
---
Hollywood Reporter
29 Apr 1975
p. 3.
Los Angeles Times
22 May 1975
p. 17.
New York Times
22 May 1975.
---
Publishers Weekly
23 Apr 1973.
---
Publishers Weekly
14 May 1973.
---
Publishers Weekly
24 Mar 1975.
---
Variety
5 Jun 1974.
---
Variety
13 Sep 1974.
---
Variety
30 Oct 1974.
---
Variety
7 May 1975
p. 52.
Variety
28 May 1975.
---
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
A Robert Chartoff-Irwin Winkler Production
A Persky-Bright/Vista presentation
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Dir
Unit prod mgr
Prod mgr, Spanish and French units
Unit mgr, Spanish and French units
1st asst dir, Spanish and French units
Asst dir, Spanish and French units
2d asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
Cam, Spanish and French units
Cam, Spanish and French units
Chief elec, Spanish and French units
Chief grip, Spanish and French units
1st asst cam
Asst cam
Asst cam
Asst cam
Head grip
Best boy
Best boy
Crab dolly
Head gaffer
Elec
Stills
ART DIRECTOR
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Asst ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set des, Spanish and French units
Props
Asst props
Greensman
Const coord
Painter
COSTUMES
Cost des
Men's ward
Ladies' ward
MUSIC
SOUND
Mikeman
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Title des
Titles and opt eff
MAKEUP
Make-up
Hairdresser
PRODUCTION MISC
Scr supv
Casting
Helicopter pilot
Piper pilot
Piper pilot
Asst unit mgr
Prods asst
Prods asst
Prod secy
Prod services by
Prod coord, Spanish and French units
Wind machine op
Helicopter pilot
Auditor
Transportation coord
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
STAND INS
Stunt co-ord
SOURCES
LITERARY
Suggested by the book The 10-Second Jailbreak: The Helicopter Escape of Joel David Kaplan by Eliot Asinof, Warren Hinckle and William Turner (New York, 1973).
DETAILS
Release Date:
21 May 1975
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 21 May 1975
Production Date:
22 July--late-October 1974 in CA, France and Spain
Copyright Claimant:
Vista Company
Copyright Date:
14 February 1975
Copyright Number:
LP44409
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Duration(in mins):
97
MPAA Rating:
PG
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In 1971, Mexican soldiers drive a van into the mountains with two prisoners. They stop to free one man, Enrique Cardosa, but force his fellow prisoner, Sosa, to shoot Cardosa dead. Later, in Santiago, Chile, a Transpacific Fruit and Steamship Corp. executive named Jay Wagner is wrongfully arrested for the murder of his business partner, Cardosa. At the New York City headquarters of Transpacific,the company president, and Jay’s grandfather, Harris Wagner, learns from a U.S. government operative named Cable that Jay’s “frame-up” was executed successfully; Jay has been extradited to Mexico City and faces a thirty-year prison sentence.Harris admits Jay had associations that posed a threat to both the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and company stakeholders, but insists that his grandson remain alive. At a hilltop Mexican fortress, Jay receives a conjugal visit from his wife, Ann, who is devastated about her husband’s imprisonment. She gives him cash and suggests they seek help from Harris, but Jay dislikes his tycoon grandfather and protests. He denies her request to make love and vows to plan an escape. That night, Jay bribes guards and fellow prisoners to help him flee in the coffin of a deceased inmate. However, Jay reveals his whereabouts to the malicious warden, J. V., when he is nearly buried alive, and is returned to the fortress. Meanwhile, in New York City, Ann visits Harris, who promises to finance Jay’s escape. She then tracks down pilot Nick Colton at his makeshift airfield in Apollo, Texas, and he agrees to charter a plane to Mexico for $1,239.52 cash. The next day, Nick and Ann fly over the prison as ... +


In 1971, Mexican soldiers drive a van into the mountains with two prisoners. They stop to free one man, Enrique Cardosa, but force his fellow prisoner, Sosa, to shoot Cardosa dead. Later, in Santiago, Chile, a Transpacific Fruit and Steamship Corp. executive named Jay Wagner is wrongfully arrested for the murder of his business partner, Cardosa. At the New York City headquarters of Transpacific,the company president, and Jay’s grandfather, Harris Wagner, learns from a U.S. government operative named Cable that Jay’s “frame-up” was executed successfully; Jay has been extradited to Mexico City and faces a thirty-year prison sentence.Harris admits Jay had associations that posed a threat to both the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and company stakeholders, but insists that his grandson remain alive. At a hilltop Mexican fortress, Jay receives a conjugal visit from his wife, Ann, who is devastated about her husband’s imprisonment. She gives him cash and suggests they seek help from Harris, but Jay dislikes his tycoon grandfather and protests. He denies her request to make love and vows to plan an escape. That night, Jay bribes guards and fellow prisoners to help him flee in the coffin of a deceased inmate. However, Jay reveals his whereabouts to the malicious warden, J. V., when he is nearly buried alive, and is returned to the fortress. Meanwhile, in New York City, Ann visits Harris, who promises to finance Jay’s escape. She then tracks down pilot Nick Colton at his makeshift airfield in Apollo, Texas, and he agrees to charter a plane to Mexico for $1,239.52 cash. The next day, Nick and Ann fly over the prison as Jay works on a chain gang. When the plane lands, Jay sprints toward the aircraft, but soldiers open fire and Nick lifts off without Jay, outraged that Ann did not warn him about the danger. Back in Texas, Nick’s partner, Hawkins, is surprised to see bullet holes in the plane and Ann accuses the pilot of cowardice. When Ann reveals the true nature of her plan, Nick agrees to help for an additional $4,000. Nick and Hawkins then visit the trailer park home of Sheriff Spencer and his hairdresser wife, Myrna, who is also Nick’s former lover. Nick offers Myrna $350 to disguise herself as a prostitute and act as a decoy, but the sheriff objects. Hawkins grudgingly agrees to take her place. In Mexico, Hawkins, dressed as a woman, arrives during the prison’s conjugal visiting day with a female costume for Jay hidden in his picnic basket. However, the prison break is thwarted by an awaiting soldier in Jay’s cell, and Hawkins is severely beaten. Jay is transferred to a rat-infested cell with a new cellmate, Sosa, the man who was forced to kill Enrique. Nick accuses Ann and her associates of double-crossing him, but he takes pity on the young woman when she bursts into tears. He promises to try the breakout again for free, with a $50,000 fee upon delivery. Meanwhile, at Transpacific headquarters, Cable tells Harris about his grandson’s attempted escapes and warns that Jay’s life is at stake if he returns to the U.S. Back in Mexico, Ann visits Jay, who suspects she is having an affair with Nick and attempts to rape her. In Texas, Nick finally convinces Sheriff Spencer to allow Myrna to assist with the prison break. Nick then seeks instruction to become a helicopter pilot, but despite his best efforts, he is unable to master the new skill. His young instructor, Harve, unwittingly agrees to fly the helicopter for a share of the earnings from Nick’s secret project. With his plan in place, Nick tells Ann to have her husband meet him in the prison courtyard at precisely 3:00 p.m. in one week’s time. He warns that the helicopter will only wait ten seconds. She protests that Jay is in the hospital, but Nick insists on going through with his plan. In Mexico, Ann visits Jay in the prison hospital and finds he is being cared for by Sosa. When Sosa leaves, Ann orders her husband to go to the prison courtyard at the correct time, but she is unsure if he understands. The day before the jailbreak, Nick and Myrna cross the border in a convertible, posing as tourists, while Harve pilots the helicopter and Hawkins flies Nick’s prop plane into Mexico. As the friends meet at a remote location, Nick tells Harve the truth about their mission and the young man refuses to risk his life. Nick declares he will pilot the helicopter, and changes into a Mexican military uniform. Meanwhile, at the prison hospital, Sosa helps Jay to his feet and they stumble toward the door; however, they are thwarted by J. V., who orders Jay back to bed. With twenty minutes remaining before the 3:00 deadline, Sosa is detained by J. V. and Nick awkwardly navigates the helicopter toward the fortress as Hawkins and Myrna drive up the mountainside. Commotion strikes the compound with the helicopter’s approach. As Sosa kills J. V., Jay sneaks past his doctors, who are distracted by the landing helicopter. Inside the cockpit, Nick counts to ten aloud while Hawkins and Myrna distract the guards. Nick lingers past his ten-second count and prisoners swarm the helicopter, allowing Jay to climb aboard undetected. Although Sosa clings to the helicopter’s skids as it lifts off, he is shot by guards and falls to his death. Hawkins and Myrna speed toward the meeting place as Mexican soldiers give chase. Nick makes a bumpy landing and transfers Jay into the waiting airplane while Harve lifts off in the helicopter. Hawkins and Myrna arrive just in time to board plane, which barely misses a Jeep filled with Mexican soldiers as it leaves the ground. Airborne, the team thinks they are in the clear, but Nick receives radio orders from U.S. customs to land in Brownstown, Texas. Ann overhears the command from Nick’s airfield and races toward Brownstown, unaware that Cable, the CIA agent who orchestrated Jay’s arrest, is following her. On the ground, Nick talks to customs officials and motions to Ann that all is well, but back on the tarmac, Jay is detained by Cable. When Nick returns to his plane and discovers Jay missing, he gives chase. Nick fights Cable on the runway as a plane approaches; its propellers slice through Cable’s body. Ann pays Nick his amassed reward of $55,239.52 and they stare into each other’s eyes with longing, but she drives away with her emotionally wounded husband. Despite his lost love, Nick celebrates his financial reward with Myrna and Hawkins. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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