OLIVE: Lancaster Hi-Def Twin Bill of Hallelujah Trail & Birdman of Alcatraz Out Next Week

Two Burt Lancaster films will be making their hi-def debuts next Tuesday as the western-comedy The Hallelujah Trail (1965) and the prison drama Birdman of Alcatraz (1962) arrive on Blu-ray and DVD from Olive Films.

Birdman comes with an audio commentary by Kate Buford, author of Burt Lancaster: An American Life, while Hallelujah has no bonus features. Synopses are below

Burt Lancaster (Elmer Gantry) and Lee Remick (Days of Wine and Roses) star in The Hallelujah Trail, the widescreen comic western extravaganza directed by John Sturges (The Magnificent Seven) from a screenplay by John Gay (The Courtship of Eddie’s Father) based on the novel by Bill Gulick.

Under the watchful eye of its owner Frank Wallingham (Brian Keith, The Parent Trap), the Wallingham Freighting Company is bound for Denver with forty wagons of whiskey to quench the town’s thirst. But there are others who have plans of their own for the load of libations including temperance leader Cora Templeton Massingale (Remick), who wants it destroyed, the Sioux Indians who want it for themselves, ditto the Denver citizens militia, as well as the Irish teamsters hired as wagon drivers. Fearing that the shipment may not reach its destination, Colonel Thaddeus Gearhart (Lancaster) assigns Captain Paul Slater (Jim Hutton; Walk, Don’t Run) to safeguard the cargo, unaware that Slater’s fiancée, Louise (Pamela Tiffin, Harper) – who also happens to be the Colonel’s daughter – has fallen under the powerful spell of Cora’s temperance message.

Rounding out the cast in this comic free-for-all are Donald Pleasence (Halloween), Martin Landau (Ed Wood), Dub Taylor (Bonnie and Clyde), John Anderson (Ride the High Country), Tom Stern (The Spy Who Came in from the Cold) and Val Avery (Black Caesar).

The Hallelujah Trail was photographed in the Ultra Panavision 70 format by three-time Academy Award® winner Robert Surtees (King Solomon’s Mines – 1951, The Bad and the Beautiful – 1953, Ben-Hur – 1960), costumed by eight-time Academy Award® winner Edith Head (The Sting – 1974), with a rousing score by Academy Award® winner Elmer Bernstein (Best Music, Original Music Score, Thoroughly Modern Millie – 1968).

Birdman of Alcatraz, director John Frankenheimer’s (The Manchurian Candidate) biographical drama, stars Burt Lancaster (Elmer Gantry) as Robert Stroud, the “birdman” of the title, who, as the film begins, is incarcerated at Leavenworth Prison for murder, a sentence that will eventually lead him to Alcatraz. Seeing his days stretch out to life without parole for the murder of a prison guard, Stroud will pass his days in solitary confinement caring for a baby sparrow, an act which eventually blossoms into caring for an array of birds sent as gifts to fellow inmates.

Birdman of Alcatraz offers supporting performances by Thelma Ritter (who would receive an Academy Award® nomination for Best Supporting Actress) as Stroud’s mother; Karl Malden as prison warden, Harvey Schoemaker; Betty Field (Picnic) as Stroud’s future wife, Stella; Telly Savalas (The Dirty Dozen) as fellow inmate Gomez; Neville Brand (Stalag 17) as Bull, a prison guard who befriends Stroud; and Edmond O’Brien (The Wild Bunch) as Thomas E. Gaddis, the author of the book based on Stroud’s life. Birdman of Alcatraz was photographed by Burnett Guffey (Academy Award® winner for From Here to Eternity – 1954, Bonnie and Clyde – 1968) and scored by Elmer Bernstein.


  • Audio commentary by Kate Buford, author of Burt Lancaster: An American Life