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CANON CITY (director/writer: Crane Wilbur; cinematographer: John Alton; editor: Louis H. Sackin; cast: Scott Brady (Jim Sherbondy), Jeff Corey (Schwartzmiller), Whit Bissell (Heilman), Stanley Clements (New), Charles Russell (Tolley), De Forest Kelley (Smalley). Roy Best (Warden), Eve March (Mrs. Bauer), John Doucette (Mr. Bauer), Mabel Paige (Mrs. Oliver), Cay Forester (Sherbondy’s Sister), (Reed Hadley (Narrator); Esther Summers (Mrs. Higgins); Runtime: 82; Eagle-Lion; 1948)
“An unspectacular true story.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

An unspectacular true story (it’s also dated) about a prison break that is told in a semi-documentary style. Its saving grace is that it is well presented. There are twelve hardened convicts who break out from the State Prison of Canon City, Colorado, on the Christmas Eve of December 30, 1947. The prison’s real warden, Roy Best, plays himself and takes us on a tour of his facility, which the film used for its authentic location. The prison town is a typical old mining town that is situated in a mountainous region in a canyon and has a population of 7,000.

A prisoner, Jim Sherbondy (Scott Brady), serving 12 years so far for a murder he committed when he was 17 is hoping to be paroled sometime in the next ten years. But he is coerced into joining a prison escape because he works in the dark room as a photographer and they need him to store their hand-made weapons in that facility.

The men, the most dangerous prisoners in the facility, jump the wall and flee across the snow-covered roads. They hold a farmer’s family hostage, but soon a large manhunt is on the way and two of them are immediately killed and all the others are apprehended within 61 hours; that is, all but Sherbondy.

Sherbondy holds the Bauer family hostage with a gun, but when her young son has an appendicitis attack Sherbondy allows Mrs. Bauer to drive her son to a hospital in Pueblo City in order to save his life. Mr. Bauer appreciates what the convict did and gives him a ride when he tries to flee on foot. But at a police roadblock he’s captured.

This minor work has some resemblance to film noir through the characterization of Sherbondy as someone who is not a hardened criminal, but got into trouble both on the outside and inside of prison because he made the wrong friends. It is narrated in a serious tone by Reed Hadley.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”