Ex-con on parole tracks down escaped con who tried to kill him after a prison bust and a trail of violent robberies (RKO 70min)
San Quentin (1946), an early RKO factory job, not to be confused with the early Bogart movie of 1937, is a shoot-em-up with a message, complete with a real-life intro from an ex-Warden of Sing-Sing.
Tough guy actor, Lawrence Tierney, the bad-guy from The Devil Thumbs A Ride (1947), plays it straight as the defender of a prison reform program under threat, who falls under suspicion for the attempted murder of a cop after a violent prison escape. The direction is tight and the night scenes are nicely lit in noir fashion. A mean on-the-streets car chase and a gripping hand-to-hand climax tie the ribbon on this one.
This is the original NY Times review from 1947:
“As an attempted deviation from the normal prison melodrama, “San Quentin,” which made its appearance at the Gotham on Saturday, suffers the curse of a split personality. For the story line of this offering forks between seriously extolling self rehabilitation among convicts and straight cops-and-robbers adventure. And, rather early in its course, the yarn about an ex-prisoner and founder of San Quentin’s Inmates Welfare League, whose good work is nearly wrecked by an escaped killer, strays from its noble intentions to settle down to a traditional manhunt. From there on the going is normal, prosaic and only occasionally exciting.
Lawrence Tierney, whose screen portrait of Dillinger made that outlaw a paragon of hate, violence and bad temper, is the grim lad who seeks the killer, to vindicate the good names of the warden and the League. Mr. Tierney makes an indomitable, two-fisted, steely-eyed and tight-lipped tracker. But he is a sleuth—a man under parole at that—who shuns the aid of the law, a circumstance which is rather difficult to nationalize. As a man who has crashed out of countless cinema jails, Barton MacLane is thoroughly acceptable as the apparently reformed bank robber who escapes to sully the League’s escutcheon. As a climactic touch, the hand-to-hand showdown between MacLane and Tierney, makes quite an edifying donnybrook. Marian Carr and Joe Devlin as Tierney’s girl friend and sidekick, respectively; Harry Shannon and Tony Barrett handle some of the principal roles. And, though former Warden Lewis E. Lawes of Sing Sing sounds a note of approval in the prologue, “San Quentin” can hardly be listed as a documentary.”
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