Warner Brothers classic I Am A Fugitive From A Chain Gang coming from a bigger studio as it did overshadowed RKO's Hell's Highway. That's a pity because the fact that the two films came out around the same time robbed ...展开this one of the attention it deserves.
Richard Dix and Tom Brown play the Ellis Brothers, a pair of convicts in a southern state prison of unknown name. Dix is a hardened convict, a lifer who's about to have it made official because he was convicted of his fourth offense and falls under the habitual criminal act.
Dix has a hero worshiping younger brother in Brown who gets himself tossed in the slam because he decides to even the score for Dix by shooting someone who ratted his brother out. Dumb kid, he's lucky he missed otherwise it would be a very long stretch.
As in I Am a Fugitive From a Chang Gang the emphasis is on the horrible conditions in these prisons, they are every bit as gruesome as they are in the Warner Brothers film. The highlight of the film is a mass escape when the entire compound goes up in a kerosene fire. Even though these guys are in there for God knows what, your sympathies are with them as the local populace goes on a hunting expedition for the convicts. It's like everyone participating in Leslie Banks's sport of hunting The Most Dangerous Game which also came out that year by RKO.
I was pleasantly surprised by the depths of Richard Dix's performance. Usually he's a pretty straight arrow hero in his film in a classic Victorian era style of acting. His part here is the best work I've ever seen him do, though I can honestly say I haven't seen that many of his films.
You'll see good performances also by Stanley Fields as the head guard and by Charles Middleton, the philosophical bigamist in the joint for the same.