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(Review originally written at 14 May 2008)

What an incredibly great and powerful movie this is about a common man who becomes a victim of the prison system.

It's a social critical movie that's right in the alley with movies from the same period such as "All Quiet on the Western Front" and other pre-code movies that weren't afraid to show the ugly side of society and show its imperfections and flaws.

The movie shows a WW I veteran who wasn't a criminal in the beginning but had to become one after his escape in order to survive, after being wrongly convicted and was forced to serve in a brutal chain gang system. So you can say that prison turned him into a criminal. This especially perfectly shows in the end of the movie, which is quite a legendary and effective ending and certainly something you wouldn't expect from a 1932 movie. I like how this movie subtly picks to social critical approach without ever getting preachy or anything about it.

It's an early '30's movie, so it's not just a movie for a tastes though. Some sequences and style of acting could today be described as being laughable but once your familiar with some different early '30's movies and its style of film-making this obviously shouldn't bother you.

Paul Muni does a great and powerful job with his performance of James Allen. He's not heroic, he's no angel, he just is who he is, which really makes the character such a compelling one. Muni also received an Oscar nomination for his performance in this movie, which was his first and also wouldn't be his last and he would eventually also win one in 1935 for his role in "The Story of Louis Pasteur".

A great powerful movie. And yes, I consider this to be a better prison movie that "The Shawshank Redemption", which always is being considered to be the ultimate prison movie.

9/10

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About Frank Veenstra

Watches movies...writes about them...and that's it for now.
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