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I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (1932)

Crime | 92 minutes
3,91 180 votes

Genre: Crime / Drama

Duration: 92 minuten

Country: United States

Directed by: Mervyn LeRoy

Stars: Paul Muni, Glenda Farrell and Helen Vinson

IMDb score: 8,2 (14.472)

Releasedate: 9 November 1932

I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang plot

"Six sticks of dynamite that blasted his way to freedom … and awoke America’s conscience!"

When James Allen is wrongly convicted of theft, he is taken to a brutal prison in the southern United States, where, with his feet chained, he is forced to perform hard labor under poor conditions. He escapes and flees to Chicago, where he meets Marie Woods. When she learns that he is a fugitive, she threatens to report him if he doesn't marry her, which is problematic as he is in love with Helen.

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avatar van Kiekerjan


  • 119 messages
  • 106 votes

An interesting story based on true events, a smooth narrative style, a charismatic main actor and good direction give the whole a serious boost. However, it takes a while before the film gets going, but after the harry introduction is over and the unfortunate Allen has ended up in the labor camp, the level rises sharply. LeRoy has clearly learned lessons from Little Caesar, as the stiffness that characterized just about every aspect of his previous film is virtually nowhere to be found here. On the contrary, Muni's strong acting performance stirs up empathy and makes you fully applaud him. Both his wife and the judges at the end, in turn, are clearly portrayed in a negative light. Be sure to read the bizarre story of Robert Burns, on whose life this story is based and the impact this film had on the infamous 'Chain Gang' prison system. As far as I'm concerned, together with M (1931) one of the best early talkies.

dutch flagTranslated from Dutch · View original

avatar van Bobbejaantje


  • 1871 messages
  • 1847 votes

A hell of a movie. Paul Muni stars from heaven in this realistic portrait of life in an American 'chain-gang' penal camp set in the 1920s. The brutality splashes off the screen and it doesn't seem coincidental that this production was made at Warner Bros. which in any case sheds more light on the underside of society.

The story is based on true events - of a convict who was still imprisoned in such a prison at the time of production - and also shocked the public opinion of American society, and had an impact on the prison system.

Almost a hundred years after its release, this film strikes me as very modern. In any case, they were way ahead of their time with this realistic drama, shot on location, that keeps far from the pseudo-romanticism that usually flourished in many Hollywood products at the time. In fact, only the too clean harmony singing of the prisoners during labor reminds us that this is a very old film (where people attached importance to such aesthetics at the time). Furthermore, this film could have been made today.

Tight pace, tension, emotional involvement, a script that seems over-the-top, but it turns out that reality is tougher than fiction.

The fourth film by Mervyn LeRoy that I get to see, but he will have to tap from a very strong barrel to blow my socks off even further.

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avatar van Film Pegasus

Film Pegasus (moderator films)

  • 30537 messages
  • 5228 votes

I'm less sold on this movie than the average viewer here. Actor Paul Muni is a bit disappointing, he did much better in that other film from 1932: Scarface. I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang is a fairly recognizable film with a prototype of the prison film with the prisoner as a kind of hero and the necessary criticism of the legal system in America. The story itself is quite smooth and it never gets boring. But in the meantime the film has been overtaken by the many prison films that followed. Director Mervyn LeRoy later became the producer of Wizard of Oz. And the producer of I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang himself, Hal B. Wallis, later won another Oscar as producer of Casablanca.

dutch flagTranslated from Dutch · View original