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"Hope Fulfilled:" The Top Ten Reasons Why You Love this Movie

by Thomas B. Clark Jr.  published Sunday February 17, 2020

Next time someone asks you, be ready with these answers.


1. "First of all, I love the script." Deeply drawn characters. Sparklingly crafted dialogue. Eloquent narrations. Brilliant subtext. A riveting plot. All generating a palpable range of human emotions, starting with fear and ending with joy. Frank Darabont spent 8 weeks in total seclusion writing this masterpiece. And it shows.


2. "Second, I love the music." Thomas Newnan's score punctuates our feelings effortlessly and to perfection.


Stoic Theme: We brace ourselves for what lies ahead, through the somber strings of Andy's entrance.


Rock Hammer: We feel the danger in the syncopated, caper-like music behind the laundry-smuggling scene.


May/Workfield: The sardonic violin and slow-picking guitar wink at us through the roof-tarring lottery and the discovery of Heywood's horse apple.


Brooks Was Here: The tender, compassionate piano over an old timer's failure to return to society helps put a lump in our throats.


His Judgment Cometh: The insistent, relentless orchestration that helps us prepare for Warden Norton's fateful exit.


Shawshank Redemption: In an inside-out twist on the four-note entrance tune, our hearts soar as the brass, drums, and cymbals combine in a thrilling crescendo over Andy's triumphant, rain-scrubbed escape.


End Title: Finally, the majesty of the music that starts with the hug on the beach and runs through the credits helps us shed whatever hard-earned tears might still be left, as we joyfully read -- and thank -- every name responsible for the making of this masterpiece.


3. "Third, I love the cinematography." The film's consistent color palate, its glorious lighting, spectacular compositions, and choiceful camera work are all attributable to the brilliance of the cinematographer, Roger Deakins. The movie earned him an Academy Award nomination for a film that feels as though it's happening in the present, while we're watching it (even for the 37th time). In order to achieve that level of consistency, beauty, and proficiency, shot after shot, there's only one way to say it: Mr Deakins is a genius.


4. "Fourth, I love the locations." It's based on a work of fiction. But the locations help make you believe that the story is real. The authenticity is dead on. People on tours of the building still ask, "Did they ever catch Andy Dufresne?"


Close your eyes and picture Shawshank State Prison. Now Warden Norton's office. Now the parole board room. The Brewer Hotel. Glenn Quentin's cabin. You can easily picture all of them in your mind's eye: nearly every detail of the movie's locations are burned into your memory.


That's a credit to the people whose job it was to scout and secure those locations. The Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield was the perfect choice to play the prison in this movie. A combination of architectural styles, including Romanesque, Chatteau-esque and Gothic overtones, it simply embodies Stephen King's and Frank Darabont's fictional prison.


Plus, the other exterior scenes that were shot in and around Mansfield, Ashland, and Upper Sandusky, Ohio, as well as the footage from different areas of Malabar Farm were similarly excellent choices. And who could forget the oak tree itself?


During the 25th Anniverary weekend in August, 2019, a guest and his wife from New Jersey said, "I feel that I've come home to a place I haven't been yet." That's a testament to the folks responsible for choosing this building in Mansfield. Thanks to them, the movie was not only made here, but their work helped save the building from near certain demolition.


Finding and securing those locations took creativity, determination, and really visionary pairs of eyes. Led by Location and Production Director Kokayi Ampah, and assisted by Lee Tasseff, Eve Lapolla, and Chris Cozzi, the right people worked their tails off to help tell this story in the most believable of locations.


When you come to Shawshank State Prison, be sure to set aside some time to visit all the nearby filming locations that have been marked out along on The Shawshank Trail. This flim fan experience is unique in all the world -- basically, you get to stand in the exact locations that were used in the making of the world's favorite movie. Each one is only a short drive away from Shawshank itself, and each one is marked by a sign (you can't miss them). Following a detailed map, you can drive and visit 15 of the 16 locations that appeared in the movie (the only one you can't drive to is Zihuatenejo beach: that was filmed in the U.S. Virgin Islands). You can take pictures and videos while reliving classic movie moments, including Red's pawn shop window, The Brewer Hotel, Brooks' park bench, Glenn Quentin's cabin, the woodshop, the road to Buxton, the Maine National Bank, the Portland Court House, and more.


5. "Fifth, I love the characters." A story lives and dies by its characters. And The Shawshank Redemption thrives because it has them all. A truly evil Warden. A cruel, sadistic head guard. A brutal, vicious prison gang. Authentic villains pitted against a fragile friendship between two inmates: a laconic newbie and an affable veteran. Authentically conceived fictional human beings with genuine character arcs and most of all, truly believable portrayals.

6. "Sixth, I love the performances." Every cast member hits the perfect note. There's not a false moment in the entire movie. Led by Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins, the cast of this film brought their A-games.


Tim Robbins says he played Andy as a "guy with some secrets." Wearing a furrowed brow, his character only cracks a few smiles during the entire story.


The first real grin we see from Andy is in the movie theatre, when Rita Hayworth "does that thing with her hair." The next smiles appear after Andy gets his library donations and when he defies the Warden. After that, he briefly grins in solitary, after learning Tommy passed the exam. The final time we see Andy smile is a on the beach in Zihuatenejo.


Most of the time, his character appears apprehensive, anxious. Which adds to the mystery of Andy's innocence. Did Andy really kill his wife and her lover? What exactly will he do with that 6 feet length of rope he borrowed? You can never really tell what's going on in his mind. But you know he's thinking about something. More on that later.


Today, Mr Robbins says he's proud of the subtle and nuanced touches he added to make Andy the complicated and crafty hero who eventually made it out of Shawshank State Prison.


Morgan Freeman, for his part, simply nailed the role of Ellis Boyd Redding. The way he portrays how "the only guilty man in Shawshank" changes across a life time "in stir" was captured beautifully in all three parole-board scenes.


In the 20-year meeting, he paints Red to be a frightened rabbit: a wide-eyed salesman who only says what he thinks the board wants to hear. But it's a mask Red's wears, just another prison routine. "Same ol' shit, different day."


In the 30-year meeting, we see Mr Freeman's Red is now resigned: we watch Red coming to terms with his fate. He repeats what he always says, but this time, we see the last bit of enthusiasm draining out of his heart. He knows he'll never be paroled. And as the light fades out of Mr Freeman's eyes, we see they are indeed dimmer at the end of the scene than they were at the start.


In the final, 40-year meeting, he shows us that without his friend Andy, Red has become an "old man, filled with regret." He slumps into the chair. The mask is gone. Reflective and transparent, he speaks from his soul. By grimly admitting that he's sorry for what he did, and the kid he used to be is now long gone, Red earns his parole, and is almost redeemed. But not quite. That will come later.


The final touches of Morgan Freeman's performance were truly Oscar worthy: watch as he finishes reading Andy's letter, leaning against the broken rock wall in the shade of the tree. And watch when he finally makes eye contact again with Andy on the shore. We share the joy Red has earned. If those cinematic moments don't make your eyeballs wet, I don't know what will.

Read becoming a Member here. Remember: all proceeds from The Shawshank Forever Fanclub go toward the ongoing restoration of OSR.

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Almost Forgetting Myself...
with Bob Gunton 

by Thomas B. Clark Jr.  published Sunday February 23, 2020


Saturday night, August 17th, 2019. Shawshank Panel Discussion #2 had just ended in the Central Guard Room (AKA Shawshank mess hall). The cast, crew and hundreds of lovely fans were all mingling, shaking hands, posing for selfies, as Damian's Shawshank Jazz Band rocked the room. They blew the doors off the place playing Tommy Williams' bus-ride tune, "Hand Jive."


It had been a fantastic day. Long, joyful, and happily winding down. But we were all still working: fielding questions, executing guest requests, taking snapshots, and loving every minute of it. Because after another perfect panel discussion, everyone was still here and having a blast.


I checked my watch: it was time to start ushering any willing cast members off the dance floor and over to one of two different locations inside the joint. We were going to record video interviews in two different rooms: one crew had set up in Red's Parole Board Room, and the other in Warden Norton's Office.


I sidled up to Bob Gunton, who earlier told me he was a bit tired from the 5-hour Meet and Greet. I asked if he was still feeling up to doing the interview. To my pleasant surprise, he agreed. He seemed as though he had caught a second wind. He said he was having a fun time with his wife, his best friend, and his wife, and that they all wanted to attend the video shoot together.

"Lead us on," he said.


This was my first chance to spend any time with anyone from the cast all weekend, other than a fun tour of the building with Mr Mankiewicz on Friday afternoon. That's mainly because all of us involved in running these events had made a vow: do everything for the guests, including the cast and crew: make sure they all had the time of their lives. So we all did what we could to make them all happy.


In fact, during our very first Shawshank 25 planning meeting, Jodie Puster Snavely, Media Director at Destination Mansfield, said it best: "Remember: everything we do, is for the fans." That mantra was the guiding light for every person, every plan, every detail. Her inspiring words helped keep everyone focused on fan delight.

"So, where are we headed?" Bob asked.

"Actually, to your old office," I said, with a grin.

Now, I had no idea that Mr Gunton had not visited the newly restored portion of the building that doubled as Warden Norton's office. The last time he was here, that whole suite was pretty run down: decaying wood, peeling paint, musty old rooms filled with dust and debris.


Not tonight. All totally restored, all 5 rooms were now brimming with screen-used and screen-matched production props, costumes, autographed posters, hundreds of rare photos, drawings, and other movie treasures. He had no idea we were walking toward the brand-spanking-new Shawshank Museum, which had its official opening only a few hours earlier.


I guided everyone into the suite, and knocked gently on the door where the camera was rolling. The crewman cracked open the door whispered that Mark Rolston was still being interviewed. Could we please hang out there for a few more minutes?

I turned to tell Bob, but he was gone. He and his wife and friends were wandering through the Museum. I found them in the room where the "Brooks Was Here" sign hangs on the wall.


Bob's mouth was open. With a mix of joy and wonder, he said, "I had no idea..."


He was thrilled, and he wasn't hiding it. Whatever fatigue he may have been feeling earlier was completely gone now. He was drawn to a spot filled with full-color super-graphics, dedicated to his character.

"This must be 'The Warden Norton Grotto'..." he joked.


Inspired by all the memorabilia, he started sharing stories with his wife and friends about the movie, about his role, and about what fun he had in making the film. I was just busting inside: this was spontaneous fun, major goosebump territory. And despite the fun I was having, I remembered my vow about the fans. I thought:"Try and record some of this, but be discreet. He's with his wife and friends. Don't be a nuisance."


Just then Bob turned to me, smiling.


"This is terrific."


Having scraped, sanded, stained, and sealed six windows in these rooms , working along side of Bill Hale, Mike Humphrey, Mike Tom, Marty Sneeringer, and the rest of the Restoration Crew, I was glad that Warden Norton was pleased. The staff at OSR remains proud of the work we did there, all to honor the work he did there.

We went on to another room, and I pointed out a 4k flat-screen featuring an interview Bob recorded the last time he was here. As he stood watching the footage, I felt the clock ticking, and again I thought of the fans. I pulled out my phone and recorded a few seconds of this moment... 

Read on...and see exlcusive footage of what happened becoming a Member here
Remember: all proceeds from The Shawshank Forever Fanclub go toward the ongoing restoration of OSR.