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Road Gang (1936)

Approved | | Drama | 28 March 1936 (USA)
Jim Larrabie and Bob Gordon, two reporters, are sent to prison on bogus charges after exposing the corrupt practices of J.W. Moett and Dudley. The two suffer extreme cruelty due to the sadistic behavior of the warden and guards.

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(story), (story) | 1 more credit »
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
James 'Jim' Larrabie
...
Barbara Winston
...
Robert 'Bob' Gordon
Joseph Crehan ...
Harry Shields (editor)
Henry O'Neill ...
George Winston
Joe King ...
J.W. Moett (changed from Metcalfe) (as Joseph King)
...
Warden Parmenter
...
Mine Warden Grayson
Olin Howland ...
Doctor
...
Atty. Gen. Marsden (as William Davidson)
Harry Cording ...
Sam Dawson (guard with whip)
...
Pete (friendly convict)
Eddie Shubert ...
Buck Draper
Edward Van Sloan ...
Mr. Dudley (lawyer) (as Ed Van Sloan)
Ben Hendricks Jr. ...
Jake (motorcycle cop) (as Ben Hendricks)
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Storyline

Jim Larrabie and Bob Gordon, two reporters, are sent to prison on bogus charges after exposing the corrupt practices of J.W. Moett and Dudley. The two suffer extreme cruelty due to the sadistic behavior of the warden and guards.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

They're Fugitives From a ROAD GANG ... and They'll Never Go Back Alive!

Genres:

Drama

Certificate:

Approved
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

28 March 1936 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Condenados ao Inferno  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The character played by Joe King is shown in the opening credits as Moett. On the TCM print every time this character is mentioned it's clear the actors are saying Metcalf even though the sound drops out as if being censored. See more »

Quotes

Robert 'Bob' Gordon: It's funny... darkies can always find something to sing about.
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Soundtracks

Swing Low Sweet Chariot
(uncredited)
Written by Wallis Willis
Arranged by Henry Thacker Burleigh
Sung a cappella by Negro Prisoners
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User Reviews

 
An excellent B film by Warners on political corruption and prison cruelty
20 March 2016 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Unlike 1932's "I am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang", this film is shorter, is using Warner's B-list talent, and has to deal with the production code which has the unusual effect of changing the king of political corruption in this movie from Metcalfe to "Moett". I've scoured my books and online sources, and I cannot find a politician from that era named Metcalfe that was considered corrupt, or perhaps one that was not corrupt and did not want to be portrayed as such in this film. Just note that you will clearly hear the name Metcalfe being changed to Moett via audio dropouts throughout the film. What this film does have going for it is a co-writer by the name of Dalton Trumbo - his first credited writing role.

Donald Woods plays James Larrabie, whose first expose on Moett's ties to political corruption has Moett trying to corrupt Larrabie himself by offering him a job in return for dropping this series of exposes. Larrabie refuses. Then he does a rather dumb thing - he tells Moett where he is going (Chicago) and how he is getting there. While Larrabie and his assistant Bob Gordon are on the road they are intercepted by the state police for suspicion of a robbery. So far, it is assumed this delay is set up by Moett, but what happens next is not. A criminal kills the local sheriff as he is putting Larrabie and Gordon in jail, and now Moett can't believe his luck, he now has the journalists up for murder. He conspires with a corrupt attorney to get them to plead guilty. The actual jail breaker is dead, so nobody can say they were not part of it. The corrupt attorney therefore tells them to plead guilty to the jail break and they'll get a suspended sentence. He knows the judge, although not corrupt, is a "hanging judge", and instead they get five years hard labor.

This is where the brutal prison scenes begin, with there even being a mine where prisoners who are sent there are destined to die a slow death of black lung disease due to a lack of any protective gear. What does Larrabie have going for him? His editor as well as his girlfriend are working on the outside to get him freed by appealing to the Attorney General. What is not going for him? His girlfriend's stepfather is one of Moett's henchmen. How will this all work out? Watch and find out.

Warner Brothers doesn't have quite the courage of their convictions here, since the corrupt state and prison system is unnamed. How did the prison system get to be so bad, presumably in the south? Originally, the big prison farms were a product of Reconstruction and a substitute for slavery. Largely, at first, blacks were sent to these prison farms, maybe or maybe not guilty of what they were convicted. But the state got free labor out of them, often renting them out to planters who no longer had access to true slaves. The brutality came from what had been done in the past to keep field slaves in line on the big plantations. Eventually, over decades, this just became the prison system for the entire south and for all races.

Well, enough of the history lesson. But I really highly recommend this fast paced little film as probably the best thing I ever saw Donald Woods in, helped by a tight script and good direction.


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