Credit goes first and foremost to star Paul Muni, faultless as the hero/victim. He plays a WW1 vet, bumming around the country, looking for work. Innocently caught up in a holdup, he takes the rap, serving hard time on brutal chain gangs. At one point, he escapes and for a while begins anew, but the long arm of ‘justice’ catches up and his nightmare starts fresh, with a finale that sears.
Fine supporting work, fast-paced direction from Mervyn LeRoy, and a fascinating, mercilessly mean series of vignettes detailing the misery of the shackled, humbled cons and the sadism of their guards. The vivid nastiness displayed brought an uproar of popular opinion over prison conditions, collected raves from the press and bucks at the box-office. Director LeRoy and Jack L. Warner ended up being banned from the outraged State of Georgia.
With Glenda Farrell, Helen Vinson, Edward Ellis, Allen Jenkins, David Landau, Preston Foster. It was Oscar nominated for Best Picture, Actor (Muni) and Sound. 93 minutes.