14 September 2013 | MartinHafer
Odd to see Barton MacLane and Glenda Farrell in a film that's not in the Torchy Blaine series!
From 1937 through 1939, Barton MacLane and Glenda Farrell made seven Torchy Blaine films together--he as the police lieutenant and Farrell as Torchy, a crime-solving reporter. During this same period, the pair made this film at Universal, not at their usual Warner Brothers home.
While "Prison Break" is clearly a B-movie with a modest budget and cast, it is a dandy film--and a nice chance for MacLane to prove he was a very good actor and could play characters other than baddies and cops. It begins with Joaquin (MacLane) working on a tuna boat and planning on marrying his sweetie (Farrell). At the same time, his buddy is planning on marrying Joaquin's sister and all looks great. However, when a man is killed, Joaquin takes the blame in order to help this friend--and ends up in prison. Things get worse when the same guy (Ward Bond) committed the murder is soon admitted to the same prison--and he's aching for a fight with Joaquin. Although Joaquin cannot help it, this fight and future fights against this thug serve to increase his sentence and it looks like he'll never get out at this rate! What's to become of nice-guy Joaquin? See the picture and find out for yourself--as there is a lot more to this film.
The best thing about this film is MacLane--his acting was quite good. Additionally, while the story has some tough to believe coincidences, the film is enjoyable throughout. Plus, it has some reasonable criticisms of prisons and the parole system--ways that they might serve to make a guy who can be rehabilitated into a hardened criminal.