Ever heard of a chain gang? You know, that old-school form of punishment where prisoners are chained together to perform hard labor? Well, thanks to this movie, this real-life menial prison sentence collapsed. Based on the memoirs of Robert E. Burns, I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang is when an aspiring engineer is unjustly accused of robbery and sentenced to a chain gang but escapes and realizes that once you’re charged of a crime, freedom is not as obtainable as you think.
Watching this film gave me a Shawshank Redemption feel where you see an innocent man unjustly sentenced and looking for ways of escape. It wasn’t every day that you saw films in those days protesting and raising awareness of cruel methods of society. We saw prison guards showing no mercy and the violence prisoners face. Considering this film was a success critically and financially, it definitely made an impact with its audience and helped save Warner Brothers from financial ruin. I found this film ironic how the character of James Allen was never a criminal to begin with but became one the minute he escaped prison and has to live his new life going forward as a criminal. What would you do if you were in James’s situation- serve your unfair sentence or escape?
Without spoiling anything for those who haven’t seen it, I can now understand why that ending is considered one of the best cinematic closing scenes as James slowly backs into the darkness and can only use our imaginations to what is to become of him. Warner Brothers was also very smart not to say where the film takes place even though it would be completely obvious to those who are familiar with its history. Still didn’t stop the state of…dare I say…GEORGIA… from suing the film. If you love prison films, meet the grandfather of them.
Unfortunately I couldn’t find a copy on YouTube but I know you can rent it there for $2.99. Here’s the trailer and let me know what you think: