Director: Stanley Kramer
Lead Actors: Sydney Poitier, Tony Curtis, Theodore Bikel
Producer: Stanley Kramer
Plot Synopsis: The movie opens, as all great movies do, on a rainy night. Two men are driving a prison work crew back to prison. They sit in the front of the bus, trying desperately to make out the road! Then we hear singing in the back. The singing is coming from Noah Cullen, played by Sydney Poitier, a black prisoner who is on the chain gang.
We find that he is chained to John "Joker" Jackson, a white prisoner.
What happens next is a crash in the rain. By the time the authorities arrive at the crash site, we realize that some on the chain gang died, some are being taken to the hospital, but that Noah and John escaped.
As a hunting party is organized, the warden tells the Sheriff over the phone not to worry, because the two will "kill each other" before anyone finds them.
Then the camera cuts to Cullen and Jackson running for their dear life with a five foot chain connecting them, attached to their wrists with handcuffs on each of their hands.
The warden is right: during their daring escape, they almost kill each other more than once. Then other people try to kill them. Then the elements try to kill them. Simply put: Noah and John are up against the greatest of odds.
Their biggest challenge ends up being the centuries of social programming that tells them whites aren't supposed to get along with blacks.
Who Would Like it and Why
People who like movies about people. This movie centers not only on the two prisoners and the humanity they might or might not have hidden under their rough exterior, but also the Sheriff Max Muller whose job it is to find them.
As the two make their way through the countryside, we meet a bloodthirsty mob, a compassionate former convict, a young boy and a very lonely widow.
We get to see these people through the eyes of the prisoners for a short time and how they act under extraordinary circumstances.
Sydney Poitier Fans
Sydney Poitier is a dynamic, good-looking actor who was doing his thing before Denzel Washington had even left his mom's house. He always said he would never play a character demeaning to his people, and he safeguards that oath here in this movie. Poitier gives Cullen a quiet dignity, and reveals a bit of soul underneath the terrible prison garb.
Tony Curtis Fans
The father of Jamie Lee Curtis. He displays great range in this character study movie.
Who Might not Like it and Why
Well, this movie is in black and white, and it moves a little slower. But it is solid!
The Posse that Sheriff Muller assembles has some pretty interesting yet blood thirsty characters in it. There is the man in charge of the dogs who is more protective of his K9s then he is the prisoner. Then there is the temporarily deputized hillbilly who insists on playing rock and roll music on the radio during the entire chase.
Bikel's relaxed pace as the Sheriff, then his mounting intensity as he realizes his job might be on the line if he doesn't catch these men is interesting to watch as well.
Three Mike and Ikes.
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