Alcatraz Island in popular culture
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Alcatraz Island has appeared many times in popular culture. Its appeal as a picturesque film setting derives from its natural beauty, isolation and its history as a prison (now a museum) from which, officially, no prisoner ever successfully escaped.
Most appearances of Alcatraz island in popular culture are related to its former status as a federal prison. Both real life and fictional accounts of imprisonment on the island have been popular.
One of the best-known of Alcatraz's historic inmates was Robert Franklin Stroud, known as "The Birdman of Alcatraz". His biography was written by Thomas E. Gaddis and then adapted into a film in 1962, with Burt Lancaster playing the lead role.
Escape and attempted escape
In film and television
Many films and television series have exploited Alcatraz Island's reputation as a prison from which it was almost impossible to escape.
Don Siegel's 1979 thriller Escape from Alcatraz chronicles the story of Frank Morris and brothers John and Clarence Anglin, who successfully escaped from Alcatraz in 1962, although it is unknown whether they survived the trip across the bay. There is some hint at the end of the film that they did survive. The film portrayed both the conditions of life in the prison and the difficulty of escaping from it.
The 1996 action film The Rock, with Sean Connery, Nicolas Cage and Ed Harris, takes place at Alcatraz Island, featuring a rogue Brigadier general stealing dangerous missiles and threatening to eradicate large parts of San Francisco unless his demands are met, forcing a government strike team to recruit John Mason (Connery), a former SAS operative and the only man to ever escape "the Rock", in order to break in and stop them.
In "The Power of Two" (1999), season1, episode 20 of the American television series Charmed, the evil spirit of a serial killer escapes from Alcatraz Island seeking revenge on his judge and jury. Phoebe and Prue must figure out how to vanquish this evil spirit and prevent his killing again without their sister Piper, who's vacationing in Hawaii.
The 2012 television series Alcatraz involves prisoners from Alcatraz - which was not closed due to budget reasons, but because all 302 residents mysteriously disappeared on March 20, 1963 - reappearing in the present day, requiring a makeshift task force to track down the inmates and prevent them from committing further crimes while also determining the reasons for their return.
In video games
- Alcatraz: Prison Escape (released worldwide on November 23, 2001) is a computer video game based on, but not directly referencing, some famous escapes from the prison facility. It was developed by Zombie Studios and published by Activision Value.
- The storyline of the Ghostlight game, Shadow Hearts: From The New World (developed in 2005), takes the player to Alcatraz in order to bust out Al Capone, who was formerly a real-life prisoner of the island.
- Sim City 4 (released in January 2003) used Alcatraz as a historical building. It was developed by Maxis and published by Electronic Arts.
- The island was also featured as a playable level on the 2002 video game, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4.
- In Crysis 2, the name of the main character is Alcatraz.
- In Operation 7 an online free to play first person shooter managed by Netgame, Alcatraz is a playable map popular for the demolition or survival modes. It features a realistic map based on the cell blocks, cafeteria, and basement of the prison, finished with music that provides a creepy tone.
- In Call of Duty: Black Ops II DLC "Uprising", a zombies map titled "Mob of the Dead" takes place in a twisted, nightmarish version of Alcatraz Island, inhabited by zombies. However, it is not the real Alcatraz; it is more like a purgatory for the four characters.
- In Half-Life 2, The Combine Prison Nova Prospekt was heavily based on Alcatraz.
Alcatraz's isolated and fortified image has meant that it has been used as a location for fictional hostage scenarios in various instances.
- The most successful of such films was The Rock (1996), in which a group from the United States Marine Corps Force Reconnaissance holds 81 tourists hostage, demanding monetary reparations. To defeat the hostage-takers, the Navy SEAL team enlist the help and knowledge of John Patrick Mason, the only inmate of Alcatraz who ever successfully escaped.
- Terrorists also use Alcatraz as a hiding-place after taking the Mayor of San Francisco hostage in the 1976 film The Enforcer.
Portrayals in media and entertainment
Books and comic books
- Al Capone Does My Shirts, a young adult novel by Gennifer Choldenko about a boy and his autistic sister living on Alcatraz Island
- Al Capone Shines My Shoes, another young adult novel by Gennifer Choldenko about a boy and his autistic sister living on Alcatraz Island.
- In Baccano!, the hitman Ladd Russo is imprisoned in 1932 and subsequently transferred to Alcatraz in 1934. The story arc "Alice in Jails" focuses on this and other inmates of Alcatraz prison.
- In the fourth Percy Jackson book, Battle of the Labyrinth, a Labyrinth entrance is located in one of the cells on Alcatraz Island and the worst nightmare of the Cyclopes, 'Kampé is a prison guard at Alcatraz.
- In an issue of Psi-Force, the group takes a sightseeing tour to Alcatraz and wind up getting attacked and temporarily imprisoned there.
- In Michael Scott's The Magician, Perenelle Flamel is held prisoner on Alcatraz Island
- After Charles Xavier's death, the superhero team the X-Men move to Alcatraz and make it a safe haven for all mutants, renaming it Utopia.
A number of books were written or co-authored by former Alcatraz prisoners, e.g.:
- Alcatraz from Inside: The Hard Years, 1942-1952 was written by former inmate Jim Quillen.
- Alcatraz: The True End of the Line, an autobiography by former inmate Darwin Coon.
- From Alcatraz to the White House: An Autobiography, written by former inmate Nathan Glenn Williams.
- On the rock : twenty-five years in Alcatraz: the prison story of Alvin Karpis as told to Robert Livesey and Public Enemy No. 1: The Alvin Karpis Story were coauthored by Alvin Karpis, the longest-held prisoner at Alcatraz.
Non-fiction books about Alcatraz
- Escape from Alcatraz (1963), by J. Campbell Bruce.
- Last Guard Out: A Riveting Account by the Last Guard to Leave Alcatraz (2008, ISBN 1434350770), by Jim Albright
Film and television
- Alcatraz, a short-lived 2012 TV series on Fox. It starred Sam Neill, Jorge Garcia, Parminder Nagra and Sarah Jones, and was produced by J.J. Abrams.
- In a two-part episode of Avatar: The Last Airbender there is a Fire Nation prison for war criminals similar to Alcatraz called "The Boiling Rock", situated on an island in a boiling lake. Until two characters, Sokka and Zuko, infiltrate the prison and rescue the former's captured father and girlfriend, nobody had ever successfully escaped from it.
- Birdman of Alcatraz
- Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore (2010), Mr. Tinkles was locked up in a hidden prison on Alcatraz Island.
- In the Charmed episode 1.20, "The Power of Two", Prudence Halliwell and her sister Phoebe Halliwell vanquish the ghost from a murderer that was jailed in the Alcatraz prison.
- Escape from Alcatraz
- Family Guy featured a Canadian Alcatraz in the episode The Former Life of Brian, where the inmates are able to come and go at will.
- G.I. Joe animated series had a two-part episode entitled D-Day at Alcatraz (1990).
- Travel Channel's Ghost Adventures filmed an episode of paranormal ongoing's at Alcatraz.
- Ghost Hunters 100th episode; season 6 episode 1 - Alcatraz paranormal investigation (March 3, 2010), a 2 hrs premiere special.
- Discovery Channel's paranormal show, Ghost Lab did an investigation of the prison.
- Half Past Dead (2002) action movie starring Steven Seagal.
- Harry Potter franchise features a wizarding prison called Azkaban which is based on Alcatraz.
- King of Alcatraz
- Meteor Storm (2010)
- Murder in the First (1995) fictionalized drama film.
- MythBusters Alcatraz Escape (December 12, 2003) Discovery Channel
- Point Blank (1967). This was the first major motion picture to be filmed on location at Alcatraz Island after the closure of the Federal prison in 1963.
- Scooby-Doo and Scrappy-Doo (1979): Daphne's sudden sea sickness and sightings of a female vampire might be tied together when the gang visits Alcatraz Island.
- So I Married An Axe Murderer
- Star Trek Into Darkness, a 2013 science-fiction movie, in which the facility is destroyed when Khan crashes his derelict starship into San Francisco.
- The Book of Eli (2010) post-apocalyptic film.
- The Enforcer The third Dirty Harry movie climaxes with a shoot-out on Alcatraz.
- The Fairly OddParents features a prison in Fairy World called Abracatraz, based on Alcatraz.
- The Othersiders series series finale featured an investigation of Alcatraz Prison.
- The Simpsons episode "Bart-Mangled Banner": After the Simpsons get ostracized due to a misunderstanding, they get arrested and locked up in Alcatraz, along with people like Michael Moore and Bill Clinton.
- The Rock (1996) action film.
- X-Men: The Last Stand features Alcatraz as the development center for a "cure" for mutants.
- The island location of the Duel Tower in the anime Yu-Gi-Oh! was inspired by Alcatraz Island, and was called "Alcatraz" in the Japanese language version.
- In the MMORPG, World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade there is a reference to Alcatraz through the Tempest Keep dungeon wing: The Arcatraz.
- The computer game Alcatraz involves US Navy SEALS infiltrating a terrorist-occupied Alcatraz and foil their plans. The game is the sequel of Hostages.
- There is a game about the prison called Alcatraz: Prison Escape.
- Alcatraz island appears in the last chapters of the first and fifth volumes of Cause of Death (game).
- In the RTS video game Command & Conquer: Yuri's Revenge, Alcatraz is featured in the introduction video setting up for its single-player campaign. Yuri, the villain in the game, secretly established one of his "psychic dominators" and power plants on the island as part of his global mind-controlling device network.
- In Homefront, during the mission on the Golden Gate Bridge, it is mentioned that US Navy SEAL Team Six has taken control of Alcatraz. It can also be seen in the distance.
- There are two chapters (five levels) that take place in Alcatraz in Hulk.
- The Stilwater Penitentiary in Saints Row 2 is based on Alcatraz.
- The Albatross Island Prison in Lego City Undercover is based on Alcatraz Island.
- In Manhunter 2: San Francisco, the player visits alien-occupied Alcatraz near the end of the game and frees captive mutants from the alien Orbs.
- In Mean Streets, Tex Murphy visits Alcatraz at the end of the game, which houses the huge "Overlord" computer and then proceed to activate its self-destruct sequence.
- The game RollerCoaster Tycoon 2 has a scenario setting on the island, some time after the prison was closed down and abandoned.
- The game RuneScape sends the player to an "escape-proof" island known as The Rock.
- In the video game San Francisco Rush: The Rock, Alcatraz is the main setting. Players race cars on, above, and through the prison and the island. Alcatraz also appears in Rush 2: Extreme Racing USA again using the same layout as Rush The Rock.
- In the video game Shadow Hearts: From the New World, the party travels to Alcatraz to save Al Capone.
- In the simulation game SimCity 3000, players can build Alcatraz Complex as their city's landmark.
- In the game Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six 3, several hostages must be rescued from Alcatraz Prison.
- Alcatraz is a playable level in Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4 and has many features of the real Alcatraz.
- The video game Urban Strike features Alcatraz as one of the secret bases of main antagonist H. R. Malone.
- Alcatraz Island is the location for Call of Duty: Black Ops 2's zombie map named 'Mob of the Dead'.
- June Carter Cash performed a song called "Alcatraz".
- The song "Bullet in the Head", by Rage Against The Machine features the lyric, "every home was like Alcatraz".
- Christian rock band Capital Lights has a song called "Frank Morris" which tells the story of the escape attempt from the point of view of the prisoners.
- Malvina Reynolds performed a song called "Alcatraz (Pelican Island)".
- The 1993 album The New Jim Jones by Andre Nickatina has a song called "Alcatraz", which includes the lyric, "Frisco, the home of Alcatraz".
- Rapper San Quinn released an album in 2006, entitled The Rock: Pressure Makes Diamonds
- In a song from the musical The Addams Family, Gomez and Morticia Addams mention that they took a week long trip to Alcatraz.
- Rick Wakeman's Criminal Record features a song called "Birdman of Alcatraz"
- American rock band Train have a song called "Save Me San Francisco" which mentions Alcatraz.
- Norteño band Los Tigres Del Norte filmed the music video of "Jefe De Jefes" at the Alcatraz prison.
- Artist Benn has made a song called "Alcatraz" hinting of the Call of Duty map "Mob of the Dead".
- Proto-Punk Peruvian band Los Saicos have a song called "Alcatraz" from the point of view of a prisoner of the Rock.
- "About - Alcatraz on FOX - Official Site". FOX Broadcasting Company. 22 January 2012.