I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang is a picture with guts. It grips with its stark realism and packs lots of punch.
It’s a sympathetic, unbiased cinematic transposition of the Robert E. Burns autobiography.
Paul Muni breaks away from the chain gang twice. In between he achieves success in his preferred field of engineering until a romantic angle prompts him voluntarily to surrender as the wanted fugitive, on the promise and belief he will be pardoned in 90 days. The prison board stalls that, despite influential appeals, leading into the second break away from the chain gang. The finale is stark in its realism.
Muni turns in a pip performance. Glenda Farrell and Helen Vinson, the only two femmes of any prominence, are oke in their parts. Hale Hamilton as an overly benign and saccharine rev, the brother of the escaped convict, is an especial click in the characterization.
1932/33: Nominations: Best Picture, Actor (Paul Muni), Sound