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The Man Who Broke 1,000 Chains (1987)

The true story of Robert Elliot Burns, the prisoner who, after being sentenced to a Georgia chain gang, attempted two daring escapes.



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Robert Elliot Burns / Elliot Roberts
Warden Hardy
Emily Del Pino Pacheco
Lillian Salo
Father Vincent Godfrey Burns
Pappy Glue
Taylor Presnell ...
George Seales
Paul Benjamin ...
Big Sam
Bill Bolender ...
Esther Benson ...
Mother Burns
Burt Conway ...
Father Burns
Hobo #1


A veteran of World War I returns to the United States but cannot find his place in the society. For a small robbery he is condemned to ten years of prison... Written by Volker Boehm

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Biography | Drama


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Release Date:

31 October 1987 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Der Mann, der 1000 Ketten sprengte  »

Filming Locations:


Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


Last film of Eilsha Cook Jr. See more »


[repeated line]
Robert Eliot Burns: I fought for you!
See more »


Version of I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (1932) See more »

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User Reviews

A great television film, with superb acting by Kilmer
17 September 2008 | by (Nova Scotia, Canada) – See all my reviews

Like many TV movies, "The Man Who Broke 1,000 Chains" has suffered an unfortunate fading into obscurity through no fault of its own. Truly, this film is every bit as good as the Paul Muni original, if only a bit less for being the second go-around.

Director Daniel Mann gives the film a real edge, a surprising sense of desperation from a director who spent a career filming melodramas like "The Rose Tattoo" (1955). In fact, it was his last film before passing away at the age of 78 in 1991. He gives the film real claustrophobia and suspense.

This is one of Val Kilmer's best roles, and he makes you believe he's really experiencing all of this. As the warden, Charles Durning is very menacing, digging his heels into every ounce of hatefulness he can drag out his character. It's an excellent performance. The female roles are well-played within their limits, but the other real standout performance is from James Keach. I always felt that James was every bit as good an actor as brother Stacy, and was quite disappointed when he quit acting for a rather mediocre directing career (save for the stunning "The Stars Fell on Henrietta").

The script is very dark, providing few moments of light. Even in civilian life, Eliot Burns finds his life constantly unraveling. I began to believe that Burns got into trouble more through his lack of foresight than his lack of luck. Overall, it's a very good picture, and an excellent historical document of the chain gang life - nearly as good as "Cool Hand Luke" (1967).

RATING: 7.6 out of 10

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