Having returned from fighting in World War I, James Allen doesn't want to settle into a humdrum life and decides to set off to find his fortune. He travels the length and breadth of America, working as a skilled tradesman in the construction industry. When times get tough however, he finds himself living in a shelter where an acquaintance suggests they go out for a hamburger. What the friend really has in mind is to rob the diner and Allen soon finds himself working on a chain gang with a long jail sentence. Allen manages to escape however and heads to Chicago where over several years he slowly but surely works his way up the ladder to become one of the most respected construction engineers in the city. His past catches up with him and despite protestations from civic leaders and his many friends in Chicago, he finds himself again on the chain gang. Escaping for a second time, he accepts that to survive, he must lead a life of crime. Written by
After James Allen's second escape from the chain gang, the last newspaper article shown states that he escaped "A little more than a year ago...". In the (final) scene that follows, Helen says to him, "It's been almost a year since you escaped." See more »
Do you mind if we stay here awhile, or must you go home?
There are no musts in my life. I'm free, white and twenty-one.
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Masterpiece that keeps influencing as much as it enthrals.
Being a man who has a very unhealthy penchant for any film that deals with incarceration, it is with great elation that I can proudly proclaim this to be one of the greatest films of the genre. I had to finally give way and import the film on Region 1 to see what I was missing, boy it was joyous to see how this film has influenced some of my favourite film's of all time.
This is one tough movie, it pulls no punches and the only surprise is that it was made in 1932, that the film is a grizzled masterpiece is down to the astute direction of Mervyn LeRoy and a quite brilliant performance from Paul Muni in the lead role of James Allen. Based on the real life writings of Robert Elliot Burns, the film is a harsh kick in the guts about the brutal penal system that existed when most of us were mere glints in our Father's eyes. It is part of a Warner Brothers controversial classic's box set that is available on Region 1, and its place on any controversial classic list is worthy.
The film had major impact on reviews of the penal system, it caused uproar in Georgia (the film never mentions Georgia, but they knew it was about them), law suits followed and Robert Elliot Burns himself was constantly pursued by the authorities despite the state being privy to the actual facts of his case. I wont be boorish with the details as it is well documented across the net and those who haven't seen the film really need to address that issue! I Am A Fugitive From A Chain Gang strips it down to a primal story that begs a viewing from anyone interested in the genre-or actually for those interested in brilliant cinema from a golden era. 10/10
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