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I Am a Fugitive
I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang
B&W. 1932. Paul Muni, Clenda Farrell; dir. Mervyn Le Roy. 76 min. Beta, VHS. $59.95. Key. Reproduction: B +
Despite its hokey title, this early sound classic is tense and exciting. One of Warner's Depression-era "social protest" films, I Am a Fugitive features the great Paul Muni as James Allen, a down-and-outer sentenced to 10 years' hard labor in a Southern chain gang for a petty crime he didn't commit. Allen is innocence betrayed, and the movie makes a telling case against the inequities of a system that allows society's poorest to suffer the most. But the film's drama is not all didactic: there are two thrilling escape sequences and a suspenseful manhunt in which Allen bareiy avoids capture. Director Mervyn Le Roy (who later produced The Wizard ofOz, ofall things) opts for a documentary style which effectively builds tension until the downbeat ending. The VHS reproduction is fine for a film this old, with good sound.