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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
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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:


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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 »


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

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User Reviews

Harrowing but brilliantly done
21 December 2005 | by (Bloomington, Indiana) – See all my reviews

This is a film based on a true story, the story of Robert Burns, a World War I veteran who fell upon hard times, turned to petty crime in a point of desperation, and then went through the harrowing experience of the Southern prison system, with all the inhumanities that are attendant to that. Deprivations and cruel punishments abounded, as prisoners were literally whipped to death and set to work at back-breaking labour on chain gangs. At a certain point, Burns escaped, and finding a new life in a Northern state, became a prosperous businessman, still ever mindful of his escapee status. Burns, being assured of the justice of the system and that such inhumanities would not happen again, was led to seek to clarify his status by returning to the South, only to be absorbed once more into the inhuman system. However, this time his public profile was known around the country, and his cause became a cause célèbre. It forced a change in the prison system that remains a turning point in the humane treatment of prisoners to this day.

This film is based upon Robert Burns' own book, 'I am Fugitive from the Georgia Chain Gang'. Directed by Daniel Mann, the story stars Val Kilmer in a remarkably full role, with powerful performances by Charles Durning, Kyra Sedgwick and Elisha Cook Jr. (a veteran actor whose credits include 'The Maltese Falcon' and 'Sergeant York', in this his final role). The scenes are often breathtaking for their brutality and realism, and the overall tone is very true to life, albeit a reality we often want to hide from.

This is a rare film, not yet available on DVD, but one well worth watching, particularly for those who are interested in American history of a different sort.

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