When the truck that is transporting convicts has an accident on the road, the inmates John "Joker" Jackson and Noah Cullen that are chained to each other escape. They hate each other but they need to help each other to succeed in their intent of going north to jump in a train and reach freedom. Meanwhile the humane Sheriff Max Muller organizes a posse to track them down in a civilized manner and respecting justice. Joker and Cullen reach a small farm where a lonely woman helps them to get rid of their chains. She offers to drive her car with Joker and her son Billy while Cullen would escape through the swamp to the railroad. But when Joker learns that she sent Cullen to a trap, he leaves her and is shot in the shoulder by Billy. Joker seeks out Cullen to save him and when they meet each other, their former hatred has changed to friendship and respect. Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Stanley Kramer originally had Sidney Poitier and Marlon Brando in mind for the two protagonists. Both were interested but only Poitier was available. Brando was caught up in filming Mutiny on the Bounty (1962), a film with a highly troubled and seemingly endless shoot. As the start date for The Defiant Ones (1958) loomed, Kramer had no option but to start looking at other actors. Also, while Brando liked the integration message, he didn't like the way Kramer had produced their film, The Wild One (1953). See more »
Billy's hair style changes twice after he is pulled up from the ground: down in his face then neatly combed and parted to one side. See more »
Full marks for guts, more than half marks for merit
Proof that Stanley Kramer's decision to idealise the Sidney Poitier character in "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" was a conscious, thought-out move (some would say it was a mistake for all that, but that's another matter), and not a cowardly or patronising one. Poitier's convict here has streaks of nobility - Curtis's does too - but the aggression for which he was jailed is real enough.
For the first half, everything is firmly screwed in place: the black and the white convict chained together, the local volunteers tracking them down, the humane sheriff trying to keep his forces in check. Things started to shake themselves loose when the woman makes an entrance. The story had worked well so long as the two convicts were estranged from civilisation, with only each other to fall back on, and it might have continued to work, if the woman had been interesting in some other way than as a plot device. In fact things got better again as soon as she vanished from the screen.
Solid and intelligent, but the other well-known Kramer films, considered as films, are better.
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