I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang

Director: Mervyn LeRoy
Year Released: 1932
Rating: 3.5

Social drama that deals with the methods used to discipline criminals - hell, the whole justice system - with Paul Muni used as an example of an innocent who wants to make something out of his life, but gets handed a raw deal by fate and winds up - unjustly - serving time. He devises a plan to escape the chain gang, does so, and establishes a new, prosperous life for himself ... only to be hunted after and "found out." One of its many saving graces (and strong points) is how unbearably oppressive societal living can be, and how, even in a "free, prosperous" country like America good deeds and dreams of success can be pulled from out under you; despite being made in 1932, its depressive message feels quite at home with modern times and modern living, where people are routinely manipulated and mistreated, and where the desire to pursue one's own subjective happiness can be thwarted by harsh opposition, leaving one empty, frustrated and disillusioned. While prisons have become more humane since this picture was made - some may claim too humane - I'm not sure people would advocate returning to this method of rehabilitating criminals. Either way, I Am a Fugitive... more than holds its own as a classic of the medium, and can be seen revamped in another great film, The Shawshank Redemption.