If you ask any movie fan to name their top ten movies of all time, it is likely that a vast number of those lists will feature The Shawshank Redemption somewhere near the top. The movie that was declared a disappointment on its release has since gone on to be one of the most loved movies in history, and now it is finally getting a 4K Blu-Ray and digital release that it more than deserves. The history of Shawshank is a long, slow journey that is almost a perfect mirror of protagonist Andy Dufresne's long trek to freedom.
Released in 1994, the movie was based on the novella by horror writer Stephen King, 'Rita Heyworth & The Shawshank Redemption'. It is not hard to see why they needed to slightly amend the title. Being known for vampires, blood, death and aliens, the thought to a slow-burning prison drama by King may have seemed a little bit off at the time. The story itself featured in King's collection 'Different Seasons', which was something of a change in shift for the author in that it was not primarily a book of horror, but focused instead on King's true strength - stories about people in bad situations.
The synopsis of Shawshank reads: "The Shawshank Redemption "tells the story of Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins), a prominent banker unjustly convicted of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment at Maine's Shawshank Prison. He is befriended by longtime convict Red (Morgan Freeman) who's been in long enough to know the ropes and helps him cope with the frightening realities of prison life. As the two men grow closer, so does the sense of hope that can truly set them free."
Written and directed by Frank Darabont, who would collaborate again with King five years later on The Green Mile, the rights to the film were originally bought by Darabont in 1987 and during the movie's journey from print to screen there were a number of big names in the frame to play the lead of Andy Dufresne, including Tom Hanks, Kevin Costner and Tom Cruise, until Darabont settled on Tim Robbins. On its release, the movie received huge critical acclaim for everything from the story to performances of Robbins and co-star Morgan Freeman, and for many the movie was and still is a perfect example of filmmaking in all respects.
At the box office though, even for a September release the movie was a disappointment. To put it in perspective, the movie made $16 million during its initial release, which was the same as Robbins first major movie Howard The Duck took domestically and in box office terms is constantly noted as one of the biggest flops of all time. Overall, the movie made just over $58 million after a second run following numerous Oscar nods and although there is no definite reason as to why it did so poorly, there are many possibilities such as it going up against Forrest Gump and Pulp Fiction, to the lack of appeal of prison dramas and even the title which many couldn't understand and almost as many couldn't say correctly.
In almost three decades since, Shawshank has found its way into so many "greatest" lists, been cited by Stephen King as one of his favorite adaptations of his work, been selected by the US Library of Congress to be preserves in the National Film Registry as "culturally, historically or aesthetically significant." Darabont said of that particular recognition, ""I can think of no greater honor than for The Shawshank Redemption to be considered part of our country's cinematic legacy."
The Shawshank Redemption receives its 4K and digital release on September 14.