Papillon: Prison Drama, Starring Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman

Steve McQueen–Hollywood’s rebel and screen legend who defined cool like no other actor–arrives on DVD June 7 in The Essential Steve McQueen Collection.

The Collection includes a newly remastered Two-Disc Special Edition DVD of Bullitt with three documentaries including the DVD debuts of The Cutting Edge: The Magic of Movie Editing, a fascinating look at the art of film editing featuring award-winning directors Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino and Ridley Scott and Steve McQueen: The Essence of Cool, a new documentary premiering June 1 on Turner Classic Movies with interviews from Neile Adams (McQueens first wife), Richard Attenborough, Norman Jewison, Chad McQueen (his son), Peter Yates, Barbara Minty (McQueens widow) and more.

Papillon (1973)

The autobiography of Henri Charriere, one of the few people ever to successfully escape from the notorious French penal colony of Devils Island, served as the basis for Papillon. Steve McQueen plays the pugnacious Charriere (known as Papillon, or butterfly, because of a prominent tattoo), who is wrongly convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison.

Dustin Hoffman co-stars as fellow convict Louis, who helps Papillon to escape. A prison drama that turns into action-adventure, “Papillon” is meandering and old-fashioned, but it’s enjoyable due to the stars’ performances.

Directed by Franklin J. Schaffner (who won an Oscar for “Patton”), the film is scripted by Dalton Trumbo and Lorenzo Semple Jr. This was Trumbo’s last script, and he also appears in the film as a prison commandant.

Oscar Alert

The film received an Oscar nomination for Jerry Goldsmith’s Original Dramatic Score; the winner was Marvin Hamlisch for “The Way We Were.”

The films included in the Collection are Bullitt, The Getaway, Papillon, and new-to-DVD titles The Cincinnati Kid, Never So Few, and Tom Horn. DVD special features include perceptive commentaries from directors Norman Jewison and Peter Yates, archival footage and new and vintage documentaries.

McQueen’s Career

Once quoted as saying, I live for myself and I answer to nobody, Steve McQueen represented a new type of movie star — one who played by his own rules and lived by his own moral code. McQueens unforgettable charm and powerful screen presence made him a legendary leading man and one of Hollywoods biggest box-office draws in the 1960s and 70s. The public loved the breakneck speed with which he drove motorcycles and fast cars and the way he did his own stunts.

McQueen first began acting in 1952 when he enrolled at Sanford Meisners Neighborhood Playhouse in New York City. After making an impression in a number of small off-Broadway productions, McQueen was accepted into the Actors Studio and in 1956, he made his film debut with a bit part in Somebody Up There Likes Me alongside Paul Newman. Two years later, McQueen scored his first starring film role in the sci-fi cult film The Blob, but it was his role in the television series Wanted: Dead or Alive that brought him to stardom. McQueen soon became one of Hollywoods most bankable leading men and starred in a long string of box-office successes, which included, in addition to the titles in the Collection, The Magnificent Seven, The Great Escape and The Thomas Crown Affair. In 1968, McQueen was nominated for an Academy Award for his outstanding portrayal of a cynical sailor in The Sand Pebbles.

During the next decade, McQueen starred in numerous films, achieving varying degrees of commercial success. But after 1978, McQueen appeared in only two more films before taking ill with an aggressive form of lung cancer. He died of a heart attack at the age of 50 shortly after undergoing lung surgery.