All the films from all the editions, including those subsequently removed, presently totalling 1187. 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 may contain 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.
"The State's promise didn't mean anything!"
It all starts with the title - confrontational, bold, no time to mince words but enough to make the point clear - it's not 'Chain Gang' or 'Fugitive' or 'Jailbreak' or whatever, in favor of a simple declarative statement that's impossible to ignore. The whole movie is like that, one of the earliest examples of super-cinema in which image and sound combine for a tactile, visceral experience, as uncompromising towards the viewer as it is towards the social injustice it exists to illuminate.
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.
This movie should be talked about more, one of the best prison films out there.
This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
James Allen is wrongfully convicted and enters a living nightmare in form of a chain gang with extremely hard labor and tortorous conditions. He escapes, but is haunted by his past even years after. While the technical aspects of the film are surely impressive, what ignites the most cinematic passion is Paul Muni's haunting performance. His eyes truly displays the true emotions of a man on the run, a man in love and a fugitive from a chain gang. In terms of storytelling, what this movie is able to put into 92 minutes is absolutely amazing. Not only is the movie drawn out over many years, but the pacing is so impeccable, never leaving anything to chance. All and all this film is an excellent display of great direction and execution. This movie also has one of the coolest movie titles ever and it serves exactly what it advertises.
Remains a real powerhouse about injustice in the criminal justice system. Muni gives a towering performance; Glenda Farrell amazes as a singularly cold-hearted bitch, and the ending is one of the most haunting ever made. Top-notch.
One of the best of the social-protest films-naïve, heavy, artless, but a straightforward, unadorned story with moments that haunted a generation, such as the hungry hero (Paul Muni) trying to pawn his Croix de Guerre. And there is one of the great closing scenes in the history of film: the hero is asked how he lives and he answers, "I steal." Those involved in making the movie hoped it might help to ameliorate the condition of convicts, but it did more to ameliorate financial conditions at Warners and was a factor in making it the "socially conscious" studio. With Glenda Farrell, Helen Vinson, Preston Foster, Edward Ellis, Allen Jenkins, and Berton Churchill. Directed by Mervyn LeRoy, from an autobiographical story by Robert E. Burns; produced by Hal B. Wallis.
If you take time to fabricate flaws in this film, I'll be forced to kill you.
Warner Brothers became the studio with a social conscience, unafraid to cast a Hollywood veneer on the problems facing society at the time. The film that cemented this reputation was the 1932 prison film, I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang. Defiant in the face of harsh prison punishments, Paul Muni captivates our fugitive, even if Hollywood changes the true life story to garner sympathy.
A remarkable film from Hollywood right on the precipice of the enactment of the Hays Code, which would constrain American film until the 1960s and the end of the old studio system. This is inspired by a man's autobiographical account of his experiences with the Georgia prison system -- indeed, many of its seemingly implausible turns come straight out of the life of Robert Elliott Burns, who evidently was a sort of real-life Jean Valjean. Among the ways the film differs from the life is that Burns was self-admittedly guilty of the crime that got him sent to the chain gang, while the fictional James Allen is wrongfully convicted. This is, perhaps, a concession made by the filmmakers to guarantee…
good pre-code crime & punishment tale muni was Oscar nominated
What a powerful film about the conditions on the work camps in the south after the first world war. Paul Muni is even better than in "Scarface" as the lead and I think everyone who watches this film sympathizes with his character. It's easy to see where films like "Cool Hand Luke" got their inspiration from.
High-rated movies with very few views. Suggestions are welcome.
***EDIT (March 30, 2014)***
Wow! I never would have expected that I'd get anywhere close to 100 likes on this…