Escape from Alcatraz Locations
Roger Ebert described the Escape from Alcatraz production as a “toughly wrought portrait” of prison life. The authenticity comes from the masterful storytelling and the filming location.
The production unit descended upon Alcatraz Island in October 1978 and they filmed at the actual prison for three and a half months. For some of the interior scenes, the filming crew used sound stages at Paramount Studios.
A sizable amount of the production budget went towards refurbishing and refitting the prison. Producers coughed up a reported $500,000 towards these fixes, and once filming wrapped up, most of the improvements were left intact. Part of the repairs involves reconnecting the island’s electricity supply.
The set designers also used water-soluble/peel-able paint to camouflage the Native American graffiti and art found around the island. Native Americans once occupied the island and given that the material held cultural significance, the filmmakers took extra care to preserve the markings.
The cast and crew admitted that the filming process was harsh and unpleasant. Most cited shooting limitations and the physical environment. The weather didn’t make things any better, and the production unit endured the bitter cold.
Still, they soldiered on, hence the reason why the cinematic masterpiece exists. Here are more details about the filming locations of Escape from Alcatraz.
Escape from Alcatraz marked the fifth and last collaboration between Eastwood and Siegel. Fallout over the film’s rights soured their friendship when Siegel outmaneuvered. Eastwood to obtain the rights of the film for $100,000. They eventually worked on the film as a Malpaso-Siegel production.
Doc hacks off his fingers scene in Escape from Alcatraz
Alcatraz Prison, Alcatraz Island, San Francisco, CA
Just to be cruel, The Warden permanently revoked Doc’s painting privileges after discovering portraits the inmate made of him and the other guards. The unfair act sinks Doc into depression, captured by his statement, “painting is all I have.”
He later uses a hatchet from the prison workshop to hack off most of the fingers on his left hand.
Naturally, the bulk of the filming took place at the Alcatraz Prison on Alcatraz Island. The penitentiary started operations in 1853 and a decade later, it became a military prison. After its 1907 decommissioning, it remained a military prison until the U.S. government took over the island in 1933.
From 1934 to 1963, Alcatraz served as a federal prison for particularly problematic inmates. Al Capone was one of the prison’s well-known inmates, having found his way to the island after continuing his operations behind bars while initially incarcerated in Atlanta. His influence wasn’t as far-reaching on the island, and the King of Crime reportedly worked at the prison’s laundry.
Now a national park, you can visit the Escape from Alcatraz location aboard a boat from Fisherman’s Wharf. The Alcatraz Prison tour also includes seeing the dummy used during the actual prison escape.
The Warden crashes the chrysanthemum Frank places on the table scene in Escape from Alcatraz
C Block, Alcatraz, Alcatraz Island, San Francisco, CA
Following Doc’s incident, Frank places a chrysanthemum on the table at the dining hall during mealtime. It’s an ode to Doc who once grew the flowering plant at Alcatraz.
However, when the Warden sees the mum, he crushes it. Litmus explained the origins behind his nickname saying “When it gets cold, my face gets blue. And when it's hot, my face gets red.”
Unsurprisingly, he is provoked with anger seeing what the warden did, and he suffers a heart attack when the Warden orders a raid of Frank’s cell. The inspection reveals nothing out of the ordinary but the Warden still instructs that Frank should be moved to a different cell.
The bottom row of B Block in “Michigan Avenue” is where you’ll find the cells that housed the real-life Alcatraz escapees. Morris was locked up at cell #138, John Anglin at cell 150, and Clarence Angling at cell 152.
However, the middle cells of the bottom row in C Block served as the Escape from Alcatraz film set.
Frank realizes he can chip his way out of his cell scene in Escape from Alcatraz
N 109 on Broadway,109 Broadway, Fairfax, CA 94930
When Frank arrives at the prison, the Warden curtly tells him that there is no escape. “Alcatraz is not like any other prison in the United States. Here, every inmate is confined alone… to an individual cell. Inmates here have no say in what they do; they do as they are told.”
The solitude would work to Frank’s advantage because that is when he realized that his cell had some structural weaknesses. He figured that he could chip his way out of confinement and that is how the plan to escape took shape.
As you face Times Square, according to IMDB, n. 109 con Broadway is where they filmed some of the scenes of Frank’s cells. On the screen, the desk was placed on the left while the bed occupied the space on the right-hand side.
Worth noting is that these particular Escape from Alcatraz filming locations refer to places within the Alcatraz Prison. The prison corridors borrowed their names from U.S. streets like Michigan Avenue and Broadway. Broadway, located between the B and C Blocks, received the most traffic due to its central location.
Frank on a boat to Alcatraz scene in Escape from Alcatraz
Sea Scout Ship Gryphon, 33 Herkner Rd, Redwood City,
At the beginning of the film, we see a boat ferrying Frank to the island. It conjures up the Warden’s initial words to Frank.
“If you disobey the rules of society, they send you to prison; if you disobey the rules of the prison, they send you to us.”
Prisoners provided the manpower in 1944 to build Warden Johnson, named after the prison’s first warden. The water vessel ferried prisoners to and from the penitentiary for the duration of its existence.
The Escape from Alcatraz production team borrowed the water vessel from the Sea Scout crew. The crew was operating the vessel at the time in Redwood City, California under the name Sea Scout Ship #145. Gary Warren appears in the credits as a guard, but he also operated the boat and served as the Scout crew’s leader back then.
After operating the boat for 35 years, the Sea Scouts sold her to Richard Sears who then put her through extensive renovations.
English explains how he landed in the prison scene in Escape from Alcatraz
Paramount Studios, 5515 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA
Explaining what got him behind bars, English tells Frank, English intercepts him and warns that his gang will retaliate if Wolf does anything to Frank. Ten years ago, I was in this bar in Alabama when two dudes started hassling me. That was their first mistake. They pulled knives. That was their second mistake. They didn't know how to use them, that was the last mistake they ever made.”
When Wolf gets out of solitary confinement baying for blood. English intercepts him and warns that his gang will retaliate if Wolf does anything to Frank,
That same night, the four decide that it’s a good enough time to leave. They plan to meet in the passageway to make their escape, but Butts chickens out and doesn’t show up to the rendezvous. He changes his mind a little too late and sulks in his cell at the missed opportunity.
Armed with their flotation gear, the Anglin brothers and Frank manage to get to the prison’s roof. They do their best to avoid the searchlights and scramble down the building’s side into the yard.
The production unit constructed Escape from Alcatraz film sets at Paramount Studios for the interior scenes.
The warden finds a chrysanthemum scene in Escape from Alcatraz
Angel Island, Tiburon, CA
The trio then scales a barbed-wire fence before ending up at the island’s shoreline. They inflate the makeshift raft and depart from the island. Only that the raft is partially submerged, and the men have to cling onto it while using their legs as propellers.
It isn’t until the next morning that their escape is discovered, and a manhunt ensues. At the bay, the search team finds shreds of raincoat material alongside some of their personal effects. The manhunt continues to Angel Island, and according to the Warden, the men wouldn’t have left their personal effects behind, and most probably, they drowned.
A guard thinks otherwise saying that the three might have intentionally left the items behind to make it seem like they drowned. The Warden is summoned to Washington, and he faces early retirement in light of the incident. He finds a chrysanthemum on a rock and an aide tells him that the flower doesn’t grow on Angel Island.
The epilogue text reveals that the three fugitives were never apprehended. The prison closed down under a year after the great escape.
The Escape from Alcatraz scenes where the Warden finds part of the raft and the chrysanthemum on a rock were filmed on Angel Island, Tiburon. The historic bay island is accessible by ferry with open-air trams offering panoramic views of San Francisco.
The great thing about the primary Escape from Alcatraz location is that you can visit the island on one of the many tours offered to the historic site. Even more interesting are some of the other tidbits about the movie.
Eastwood, Ward, and Thibeau performed the wall-scaling stunts without stunt doubles. The latter two reportedly landed their roles mostly because of their athletic abilities. Siegel thought that he had lost his cast members at least twice while filming the treacherous scenes.
At the time of filming, Eastwood was 13 years older than the real-life Frank who escaped from Alcatraz at the age of 35.