All the films from all the editions, including those subsequently removed, presently totalling 1177. An easy way of seeing how…
I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang
Six sticks of dynamite that blasted his way to freedom... and awoke America's conscience!
Warner Bros.' hard-hitting chain-gang movie was a faithful adaptation of the similarly titled autobiography of Robert Elliot Burns. Paul Muni plays World War I veteran James Allen, whose plans of becoming a master architect evaporate in the cold light of economic realities. Times get really tough when he's falsely convicted of a crime and forced to work on a chain gang.
This bruising, brutal slab of social realism was made during that brief period when Hollywood had the opportunity, and the inclination, to take aim at the nation’s ills. In 1932-3, films like Heroes for Sale, Wild Boys of the Road, The Mayor of Hell and Gold Diggers of 1933 (ostensibly a throwaway musical) held a mirror up to Depression-era America, in all its cruelty, drudgery and despair. Packed with righteous rage, these explosive movies went off like dynamite, helping to set the national agenda and changing laws and lives. Then the Hays Code came in, and the mainstream simply wouldn’t touch progressive pictures (with the very rare exception, like Ford and Zanuck’s The Grapes of Wrath in 1940).
With one foot still in the silent era, and the other revelling in the state of affairs prior to the Hays code, I am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang dips in quality now and then, mostly due to Muni not yet fully adapting to a wider range of possibilities when expressing emotions. He's got a great face, but there really is no need for that much expressions in a talkie.
Mervyn LeRoy's film is a scathing attack on a penal system just as topical today as it was then, unfortunately, with the powers that be still blind to the fact that punishment is not the deterrent they claim and believe it to be.
It keeps a…
This review reportedly contains spoilers. I can handle the truth.
I watched this film with no previous knowledge of its controversial history, only knowing that it is suppose to be a marvelous pre-code Hollywood production with a great Paul Muni performance. I watched the film and it took a toll on me with great effectiveness. I experienced a wide array of emotions from the social commentary and injustice the film had to offer. I knew there was something important about this film in the year and time it was made but I was in complete awe of its factual history when I read about it afterwards.
First I want to keep to the film which provided as much suspense and tension as a Hitchcock film. It is a edge of…
Paul Muni had such a tremendously expressive face. The weight of the world is communicated entirely through it in this excellent proto-noir, a marvellous depiction of the hardship of life for soldiers returned from the Great War. The First Blood of its time, I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang has a lot to say about contemporary society, and an impressive visual style with which to say it. Mervyn LeRoy brings an accomplished eye to the story, the many shadows and bars which fill his frames an omnipresent reminder of the entrapment Allen feels within a society that refuses to accept him as he now is. This is a damn important movie in the history of American film, a great story not afraid to condemn aspects of its surrounding culture, and one of the best exemplars of the Pre-Code era I've seen.
a+ use of shots of newspaper editorials as exposition and fluttering calendar pages to indicate the passage of time
The socially conscious elements are as bold and (sadly) relevant as ever, but what rockets this into being one of my favorite movies is the masterful sustaining of tension. It really captures what it must be like to escape from prison and to be on the run afterward. Some of it even hits proto-Hitchcock territory - I particularly like the shaving scene and its tension-breaking punchline. And the famous ending is a nice relief from the often artificial Hollywood endings, bleak and socially significant.
LeRoy avoids all the cheesy melodrama and poor-writing of his previous works to deliver a suspensefully dark, hard-hitting and gritty social commentary made all the more powerful by the fact that it's an essentially true story. LeRoy's camerawork and pacing is great and Muni's performance is impeccable.
This review reportedly contains spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Warning, this review contains criticism on the United States of America, reader discretion is advised.
Firstly, the film is well made. On the one hand it starts out slow and some of the acting is sketchy, especially the mother and the reverend brother. Were I more optimistically inclined I would say his portrayal was religious satire, but being realistic, I exclude this point of view; it is hard enough to find religious satire in contemporary Hollywood productions, accordingly the presence of it in Hollywood in 1931 is highly unlikely. On the other hand the technical aspects are great for a production of its time, namely apt use of camera movement and good sound editing for such an early 'talky'.
Paul Muni may give his best performance here, although I'm a sucker for his turn in Scarface of the same year. The film itself drew a surprising number of parallels with more modern prison movies in some regards, which probably speaks to its influence as a character piece with an even greater characterized background. You not only get a sense of the background of the film, that of a prison gang, but of the time of which that film was reflecting, it's hopes and dreams and perhaps most vividly its discontent and disillusionment with the depression in full swing.
Fantastic performance from Muni in a superbly tense thriller that has stood the test of time very well.
Sometimes you watch movies and something happens and you think, ha, a cell phone would have cancelled out that entire premise. I watched this movie and thought, ha, getting that shit in writing would have cancelled out this entire premise. (Amazon Video)
This is a powerhouse of a film. Big, dramatic and with large feeling of gravitas.
I really liked this film. If you want to see an important piece of cinema, watch this movie. Really moving and timeless.
Not as good as I remembered it from film class, but it does have two very interesting chase set pieces that demonstrate how it's a strong example of early sound cinema. Muni is good amid a bunch of hammy performances. The movie lags when it's outside of the prison, and my god, that Reverend character is the WORST.
Every film that has ever been nominated for an Academy Award in any category. Enjoy!
Combined the average ratings (Critic's & Users) from IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes, Metacritic and Letterboxd, and then weighted and tweaked the results…