In 1985, Dr. Mudd, a man known to be a Confederate sympathizer, hears a knock at his door in the early hours of the morning. An injured man appears at his door with a broken leg, needing instant medical attention. The injured man who Mudd helps turns out to be John Wilkes Booth, leading Mudd to convicted for conspiracy in the murder of Abraham Lincoln. At first Mudd is sentenced to hang with the other conspirators but at the last moment his sentence is changed to life imprisonment. He is sent to Shark Island, a brutal penal colony, where he is sentenced to life imprisonment. John Ford's The Prisoner of Shark Island is a convincing and emotionally exhausting experience about the wrongfully accused Dr. Samuel Mudd. The film exposes how in the aftermath of Lincoln's assassination this mob mentality consumed the American people and the courts themselves, making Dr. Samuel Mudd a tragic victim of circumstance. We are shown just how important Lincoln was too so many people through this hatred, making Mudd's innocence, though quite obvious to the viewer, impossible for the common folk to even realize. Ford spends the time necessary to make Dr. Samuel Mudd a sympathetic character, capturing how even though he was a confederate sympathizer by no means meant he supported John Wilkes Booth. While it's easy to be sympathetic of Mudd's plight, the film uses Mudd's daughter and wife to masterfully create an emotionally devastating retelling of Mudd's conviction. Per usual, Ford's direction is top notch, with the hanging sequence being one of the true highlights. The way Ford composes this sequence - the perfectly timed compositions, the constant drum roll, etc. blend together to make a tension-filled sequence. When Mudd arrives at Shark Island, Ford uses darkness to great effect, showing the isolation and solitude Mudd was forced to live in during his time at Shark Island. My biggest complaint of the film revolves around Mudd's father, a character who comes off a little too silly and over-the-top for my taste, seemingly brought in for comedic relief. John Ford's The Prisoner of Shark Island is another great history retelling from the master director himself.
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