A young man forges a check in order to help his mother, but is caught and sentenced to 14 years in prison. The prison chaplain, seeing that the new arrival is a good man who's had some bad ... See full summary »
A young man forges a check in order to help his mother, but is caught and sentenced to 14 years in prison. The prison chaplain, seeing that the new arrival is a good man who's had some bad luck, sets out to help keep him out of trouble so he can serve his sentence and get out. However, his cellmate, a hardened con, sees the chaplain's interest in the young convict as something he can use in his planned jailbreak. Written by
The story, by Martin Mooney, was based on the famous Colorado State Penitentiary (Canon City) riot in 1929 in which 12 were killed and 11 injured in an attempted breakout. Father Patrick O'Neil, the prison chaplain, who was instrumental in quelling the outburst, was awarded the Carnegie Medal for extraordinary heroism. See more »
Ostensibly based upon journalist Martin Mooney's own experience while in jail, this crisply directed work from a fictional story by Mooney is a tribute for Father Patrick O'Neil of the Order Of St. Benedict, because of his heroic efforts to quell a deadly prison riot before it could worsen (after 12 fatalities), at Canon City, Colorado in October of 1929, for which O'Neil was awarded the Carnegie Medal For Heroism. Young Johnny Gates (Dennis Moore) is assigned to a state penitentiary to serve a stretch of one to fourteen years to atone for forging a ten dollar check meant to assist his indigent mother, and he naturally is bitter and also susceptible to the plotting of his cellmate Red Manson (Barton Maclane) who is organizing a widespread escape attempt. The prison chaplain, Father Joe (Charles Bickford) tries to cultivate a friendship with Johnny, the priest believing that he can help the youth in adjusting to his new surroundings, but Gates is immune to the clergyman's cordiality and, although he accepts a job, through Father Joe's influence, in the prison library he does so due to the urging of Red who intends to use marked passages in library books as code among the conspiring inmates. In several scenes during which Father Joe berates the penal institution system and parole board for their inflexibility when dealing with convicts, some of his arguments are quite strongly advanced. As the breakout try nears, the largely cardboard characters that populate the unabashedly sentimental scenario are placed in expectedly hackneyed circumstances, although the briskly moving affair wins over a viewer because of the general mood of sincerity that is expressed from the screenplay. Bickford is very effective with his playing as Father Joe, granitic as ever and displaying perfect timing, while Dennis Moore, who seldom gains a featured role during his career, contributes a strongly focused and consistent turn as sullen Johnny Gates. Commendably released upon DVD by Alpha Video with indifferent but acceptable quality, remastering would be helpful to those desirous of adding to their personal collections what is one of the more effective films produced for the Men In Prison genre, so popular during the Great Depression.
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