Peter Soffel is the stuffy warden of a remote American prison around the turn of the century. His wife, Kate, finds herself attracted to prisoner Ed Biddle. She abandons her husband and ...
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A somewhat mentally handicapped 20-year-old man works as a laborer, but everyone abuses his naiveté. A nice 40-year-old American woman hires him one day and they become close. However, the town and his family see her as predatory.
Peter Soffel is the stuffy warden of a remote American prison around the turn of the century. His wife, Kate, finds herself attracted to prisoner Ed Biddle. She abandons her husband and children to help Ed and his brother Jack escape and accompanies them into the wintery wasteland.Written by
The picture is set in 1901 in Pittsburgh, Allegheny County in southwestern Pennsylvania. See more »
A toy electric train shown running around a Christmas tree is of a post-1950 design, as is the track. The train is based on 19th-century locomotive and passenger car prototypes, making it more plausible. However, toy electric trains that even remotely resembled the one shown did not exist by 1901. See more »
Don't you let them take me alive, Ed. Promise me. Promise me, Ed.
I won't, I promise. I won't let them take you.
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Mrs. Soffel is one movie with a fine cast that I missed in the 1980's so when I saw this move as a $2 DVD, I snapped it up. It is a period drama and romance with interesting sets depicting Pittsburgh in 1901 and the prison for death row brothers, Ed and Jack Biddle. They are befriended by Diane Keaton, as Mrs. Soffel, the well-meaning wife of a prison warden played by Ed Hermann. The Biddle brothers are Mel Gibson and Matthew Modine as Ed and Jack Biddle. They are likable and good-looking and far from the image of hardened criminals, thus winning the hearts of working people, women especially. Mrs. Soffel is a Christian activist, who visits them with Bibles in hand trying to comfort them. She is a bright, middle class woman with a hard-working, responsible husband and three children. But Mrs. Soffel, who suffered from depression, is not content. Diane Keaton portrays a woman of her time who wants to go beyond her comfort zone and live a meaningful life. Thirty eight at the time of the movie, Keaton's age is about right to portray Mrs. Soffel, who is reaching middle age with her children getting older but she is a passionate woman whose own husband is focused on his career. Mrs. Soffel falls deeply in love with Ed Biddle. No small matter for a woman of her time. Both Diane Keaton and Mel Gibson were clearly chosen for their star appeal. Gibson is 10 years younger at 28, so this makes the romance more scandalous for the early 1900's and possibly titillating for a modern audience. As a period drama, it falls short because the romance gets the upper hand. Nevertheless, the prison sets, the on-location train travel and views of the horse drawn sled in the countryside are quite effective. I did like Matthew Modine as Jack Biddle, the less mature but more fun-loving younger brother. Mel Gibson cares deeply for his brother and wants him to be spared the noose; he feels it's his fault. He also is the true romantic who falls head over heels for Kate, Mrs. Soffel, writing poems about her and showing as deep an affection as he can behind the bars that separate them. Ed Hermann gives a good performance as Mrs. Soffel's husband, a man who performs his roles as husband and father, while awkwardly carrying on as prison warden.
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