Film 74 in the “1001 Films to See Before You Die” challenge is 1932’s “I am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang”. Throughout the entire 88 minutes, I couldn’t get into it. I was watching trying to figure out how this made the list and how it has a 8/10 score on IMDb. It was dull. All I got out of it is that you can never escape prison. Even if you do, everyone’s still looking for you. This was, however, one of the first prison films ever to be made. Paul Muni has just finished working on the 1932 version of “Scarface” and is described as the finest of the hard-hitting social-protest dramas Warner Brothers specialized in during the 1930s. After reading that, I’m still unsure about what they were protesting about. Was it the way prisoners were treated? This film was based on an autobiographical story by Robert E. Burns. Since I have nothing to do on and nothing really stood out, I’m going to quote the person who wrote about this film in the “1001 films” book. “Worth seeing just to appreciate how often it has been referenced, the film is dated but still powerfully disturbing down to the famously haunting last line. As Muni’s fugitive, Jim, slips away into the night, his lover plaintively calls out, “How do you live?” From the darkness comes the tragically ironic whisper, “I steal.”” If you have seen this film then let me know what you thought of it in the comments. Here is what I had to say while watching 1932’s “I am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang”
Film – I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang
Year – 1932
Director – Mervyn LeRoy
Staring – Paul Muni, Glenda Farrell, Helen Vinson
IMDb Rating – 8/10
My Rating – MEH
Length – 88 min (1h 28min)
Genre – Crime, Drama, Film-Noir
Nice that the opening credits shows me who everyone is
Lets celebrate arriving in a new country with shirtless poker
The sergeant wants to be a drill sergeant
Ivor the Engine’s back!
We’re in Lyndale
Jim reunites with his mum and Alice
“You’re a little slim. You’re cooking will fix that”
Mr Parker rehires Jim at his factory
Why do they have a priest living in their house?
Jim says he’s not taking Mr Parker’s offer because of what happened in the war
Does Mother have a name or does everyone call her Mother?
Jim says he wants be a manager and a engineer
“A job in the hand is worth two in the bush” – I think that quote’s wrong
At the factory
They’re builing a new bridge so they’re bombing the old one
All those plates and cutlery all for two slices of bread
How does Clint know everything about what Jim does at work?
Jim feels like he’s back in the army with the way everyone treats him
Mother understands where Jim is coming from
Jim heads to Boston to begin work at a construction site
I’ve lost my job after 10 minutes! Better head to New Orleans
Well… No jobs there! Better head to Lake Winnebago
Now that’s done! To St. Louis to a pawn shop
Everyone handed their medal in for cash!
Well that failed! Onward to…. somewhere!
Jim meets with Pete at a homeless shelter and chat over hamburgers
Jim’s really excited about hamburgers
15 cents for a hamburger! Times were cheaper back then
Pete’s robbing the diner and making Jim rob the till!
All he made was $5!
Those cops arrived quickly and killed Pete
Jim is taken to court and is sentenced to 20 years of labour
20 years for robbing a diner for $5! Times were rough back then
4:20am! Better wake everyone up with the triangle
Everyone sleeps with chains attached to their ankles
Breakfast is pig fat and bread
I’m practising my spitting technique
Load the pick up trucks with prisoners and chain them
Even the horses are chained together
They are taken to a mine shaft in the middle of a field
Hi-Ho Hi-Ho It’s off to work they go
They’re keeping the one black prisoner in jail for life because they like his work
Asking for permission in wipe sweat
8:20pm and it’s back to bed
Everyone washs in one bucket
No bath for me! “I forgot my bath salts”
Dinner is the same as breakfast
You’re getting whipped because you talked
Jim’s taking a whipping and he isn’t even screaming
It’s June 5th and Barney’s been released
One prisoner has a countdown chart with his release date in 4 and a half years time
Fancy a lift into town now you’re not a prisoner
Month after month rolls on and the prisoners are building a railroad
Jim asks Sebastian to loosen his chains while the guards are resting
Sebastian does so
In the middle of the night, Jim tests his chains
Palmer tells Jim to meet Barney when he gets out
Back at the railroad job
Jim escapes his chains and runs for it
Release the hounds!
The chase is on to catch Jim
Jim runs to a house and steals the clothes on the washing line and changes into them
Those dogs barking doesn’t sound good
They sound like horns
Jim hides in a lake to hide from the guards
Also, tip for any escape convict use straw to help breath underwater
Jim buys a suit and a shave so police won’t stop him
A policeman walks in and doesn’t spot Jim
Jim finds Barney in a hotel and he hooks Jim up with a room
He evens gets Linda to spend the night with him
Jim tells Linda he isn’t safe until he’s out of the state
I’d love to know which state he’s in
Time to head back hime on the train but first… a hamburger
The police arrive at the station looking for Jim
They find him… Not Jim! A different runaway proisoner
Turns out the guy the police caught was a hobo
Back to Chicago
So this is what a Job Centre looked like in the 1930’s
Jim gets a job building the new bridge under his new name Allen
He gets promoted to Foreman
$25 a month rent for a room! That’s pretty cheap
Let’s bargain! How does $20 a month sound!
Now Jim’s a Surveyor!
I wish I knew who this landlord is
She complains that Jim spends all night studying Civil Engineering books
Damn! That’s the rent back to $25
Now Jim’s a Assisstant Supervisor
The landlord thinks Jim is leaving because he doesn’t love her
He never loved her
She has a note from Clint
Reading! I can’t read Clint’s handwriting
Wait! She’s Marie!!!
Wait! She thinks she’s married to Jim
Well I’m reading the Marriage Certificate and it’s true!
Marie and Jim are married
So they’re faking being married so Jim doesn’t end back in jail
Damn! The wife’s been drinking again!
He gets a call from Sammy
Sammy sounds like Daffy Duck
At Club Chateau
Why are they sit on opposite sides of the table if they’re married?
Why aren’t they sat next to each other?
Now they sit next to each other
They escape to the beach and talk about building bridges
“I’m free, white and 21”
Back to bridge building
Jim and Marie talk about what would happen if they get a divorce
She gets mad and heads to the police station
He doesn’t get arrested but does get offered to speak at a dinner party
The police arrive and arrest Jim
He exposes the chain gang story to the news
At the District Attorney office
He agree that Jim must works 90 in jail to be properly released
He asks Marie for permission
The Chief of Police argues about chain gangs while Jim is outside
Back to jail in Kentucky
Jim meets with Mr Ramsey
$350 for the state to recapture Jim
And $2500 to Mr Ramsey
At Tuttle County Prison, black people are called “Negroes” – That’s racist!!!
And there’s 69 locked in prison
Someone didn’t get the memo and Jim is now in jail forever
He and Palmer talk about why Jim is back
Palmer says he’s in jail for hitting a guard with a sledgehammer
NO SINGING ON THE JOB!!!!
Mr Ramsey stands in for Jim
Clint starts the case and speaks on Jim’s behalf
Jim’s side over and now time for the other side of the arguement
Clint sees Jim and says the court refused to agree with Jim’s demands
He then says Jim only has to spend 9 months in jail if he’s on good behavior rather than 9 years
Jim says he’ll wait the 9 months “Even if it kills me”
The months roll by and it’s back in court
Again the court goes against Jim and he’s spending the full 9 years
The next day
Jim and Palmer escape in a truck
Get ready to throw dynamite at the police
Love to know how they’re getting tyre squeels on dirt roads
Palmer’s been shot!!!
But he can still throw dynamite out of a moving truck at the police
Palmer dies from the earlier gun shot
Jim gets his chains broken by the truck’s cogs
He then throws dynamite at another car full of police causing the bridge to collapse
The hunt is on for Jim.. Again!!!
Jim finds Helen and tells her that he’s always on the run
He does so