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  • Oh man, I saw this when I was about 9 at hotel somewhere in Pennsylvania (this was in 1977!) and the thing that haunted me for years, years!! - was the image of Alan Alda strapped into the gas chamber and being executed.

    The admonition of the guard to 'breathe deeply, it'll be easier' was so chilling that I can remember it to this day! I've never seen the movie since but those images are so vivid I can't forget them!

    On a political note, it makes you think about capital punishment and whether or not you're for or against it, it does spark a debate on how punishment is administered.
  • I saw this film many years ago and still remember it vividly, but like others have been unable to purchase the film!! I found the story so interesting that I later read the three books Caryl Chessman wrote while on death row as well as the transcript of his trial and all were fascinating. Alan Alda's performance was superb and the entire film was gripping. I have no doubt from my reading he was not a nice man and surely guilty of many things, but i do not believe kidnapping was one of them, it did nit fit the profile and certainly the trial had so many errors it was a disgrace. That's justice for you. I hope one day NBC releases this film on DVD, I know there are many out there that share my passion for this enthralling story.
  • Alan Alda's super performance dominates this story of Caryl Chessman, who was arrested in Los Angeles in 1948 as the Red-Light Bandit. Flashing a red light resembling that used by the police, the "Bandit" would approach victims parked in lonely spots to rob the men and rape the women. Chessman spent 12 years on death row due to many counts of robbery, kidnapping and rape. After writing four books from Cell 2455, Chessman was executed in San Quentin's gas chamber in 1960. Alda conveyed the cockiness and arrogance of the convicted rapist who always exclaimed his innocence.

    Sometimes a little sluggish at two hours, but interesting due to the uncanny portrayal by Alda. Also in the cast are:Talia Shire, James Sikking and John Hillerman. Above average crime drama.
  • sol-kay13 August 2004
    ****SPOILERS**** I as well as many other people feel that Caryl Chessman, Alan Alda, would not have received the death penalty and then later be executed if it wasn't for his brazen and obnoxious actions during and after his trial for the Red Light Bandit crimes that shocked the city of L.A back in the winter of 1948.

    Chessman had a genius IQ of over 150 and self-taught himself law behind bars so well that he used the same law that put him on death row to hold off his pending execution for 12 years. That resulted in 8 stays of execution that ended on Chessman's last stay where he proved that like a cat he only had nine lives to use up.

    While behind bars Chessman was also able to write smuggle out with the help of his lawyer Rosalie Asher, Talia Shier, and have published his autobiography "Cell 2455 Death Row" in 1954 which later became a major motion picture the next year. It was a shame that Caryl Chessman couldn't use his above average intelligence to be a law abiding and productive citizen but used it to become a criminal in which he proved to be a total failure. One major, and indisputable, fact that came out of Caryl Chessman's execution was that it destroyed in the mind of the public the notion that justice is truly blind. With Chessman being executed more for his arrogance and abrasive attitude then for the crimes that he was convicted of which really weren't capital crimes.

    It was by the presiding judge using the little known section 209 of the California Penal Code that had to do with kidnapping and injuring a person kidnapped but not murdered, which Chessman wasn't convicted or even accused of, that ended up putting Chessman on death row. There's also the fact that the two women whom Chessman was convicted of kidnapping were not physically injured even though they were raped and sodomized. Gov. Brown who was a staunch opponent of the death penalty and who was governor when Chessman was executed once was reported saying "I'm all for eliminating the death penalty only after Caryl Chessman is executed". That's just how turn offish Chessman was to everyone who dealt with him during his trial and later 12 year stay on San Quentin's death row.

    Alan Alda is eerily convincing in his appearance as well as in his actions as the infamous Caryl Chessman. Talia Shier is also very good as Chessman's long suffering lawyer Rosalie Asher in this made for TV movie about Crime & Punishment. You can't help but notice how the wheels of justice were greased against Chessman in order to strap him into the San Quentin gas chamber and at the same time how Chessman did everything possible, consciously or sub-consciously, to put himself there. From his conviction on June 25, 1948 to his execution on May 2, 1960 Chessman became a Cause Celebre all over the world against the death penalty. He also had people from all walks of life from world leaders and movie stars to the average man or woman on the street protesting to save his life.

    "Kill Me If You Can" is a lot like the previous movie "Cell 2455 Death Row" about the violent life and later-eight years after the book was published-highly publicized execution and death of Caryl Chessman. The movie does bring out the feelings of that time of the controversy that swirled around Chessman in the USA as well as all over the world. I always felt that Caryl Chessman was a super ego-maniac who lapped up all the attention and publicity that he got in regard to the fight for his life against the death penalty. He really didn't seem to care for or want a pardon from his trip to the San Quentin gas chamber. Chessman just loved the publicity too much to permanently cancel his appointment with death.

    The movie also brings out this one important fact about Caryl Chessman: The story of Chessman's crimes would have never gotten past the front pages of the L.A newspapers in January 1948 and would have long been forgotten by everyone, with the exception of his victims. What really made Chessman famous was his both brazen and skillful way of first getting himself convicted of kidnapping and then skillfully fighting off the eight execution dates for twelve years. By doing that Chessman made a name for himself that has people talking writing and producing books and movies about him during his life as well as over forty years after his death. In this one single effort Caryl Chessman was indeed a success, in spite of his long string of failures, in life.
  • I saw this movie many years ago and have been trying to find it in video form ever since. Caryl Chessman was an amazing man. He did everything he could to proclaim his was innocent, and finally got what he wanted, but too late! I found it heartwarming in that the truth will prevail even though it may come late as in the instance of Caryl, and tragic because he was an innocent man who wrongly faced the death penalty and was sent to the electric chair. It actually had me on the edge of my seat so many times as I was convinced of his innocence.Alan Alda has played some great roles in the past and after this movie and in my opinion he did the character of Caryl Chessman justice. The most memorable movie I have ever seen. I will continue to find a copy of this movie and I also want his book.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Growing up during the time period of Caryl Chessman's incarceration and execution, I remember him quite well. In fact, I was fascinated by his intellect and this story. He wrote four books during his time at San Quentin, including his best selling memoir, "Cell 2455, Death Row." It was the talk of the nation and many prominent people from varying avenues of life urged the then Governor of California, Pat Brown, to grant him clemency!

    Born in Michigan on May 27, 1921, the Chessman family relocated to Glendale, California in 1922. Coming into his adolescent years when the Great Depression hit, the young Carol (his real name) was in constant trouble during that time and was in and out of reform schools throughout his teenage years. Involvement with local gangs of young men upon his release, he continued his criminal ways throughout the 1930's and 1940's. It seems he was particularly fond of stealing cars! When a string of robberies began occurring in the Los Angeles area in early 1948, the incidents began as simple hold-up type robberies, however, compounding the crimes and confounding the police was a sudden change in method. The thief, or thieves, had also stolen a car and had, on two occasions, resorted to sexual assault. Were the police looking for two different criminals or was it only one who was at large?

    News media dubbed the thief "The Red-Light Bandit" because the car that was forcing people to pull over just before they were robbed and/or assaulted used a flashing red light similar to that used in police vehicles. People thought they were being stopped by police and they simply pulled over! Some time during this string of robberies, Chessman had been seen driving a car similar to the description given of a 1946 or 1947 tan or gray Ford coupe that had been stolen and was being used in the crimes. Police spotted what they thought was the right car, pursued and arrested Chessman and another man on the 18 counts of robbery, kidnapping and rape! After 72 hours in custody, Chessman confessed to the crimes but later recanted indicating he was beaten and tortured by police. He was, however,also positively identified by both women!

    A petty thief and low-level criminal, Chessman had never been involved in anything having to do with sexual assault or kidnapping. Outside of the alleged torture by police, he had actually proclaimed his innocence from the moment of his arrest thinking he could never be found guilty of anything having to do with kidnapping and rape! It was simply not his M.O. and he was depicted, in the film, as being insulted by the charges! After a three week trial, during which he defended himself, Caryl Chessman was found guilty on 17 of the 18 counts and was sentenced to death! After successfully arguing on appeal, he subsequently won 8 stays of execution before being led to his death in the gas chamber on May 2, 1960. The way the laws were applied at that time accounted for the death sentence. The court ruled that dragging one of the women only 20 some odd feet away from her car was sufficient to qualify for kidnapping under the "Little Lindbergh Law." This also made the two incidents Capital offenses to which the death penalty could be applied. Charges made against his "accomplice" were thrown out of court and he, alone, was incarcerated!

    Alan Alda,still in harness playing "Hawkeye Pierce" in the hit TV series,M*A*S*H* stars in this 1977 TV movie. Nominated for a Prime-Time Emmy for his remarkable portrayal of Chessman, Alda, along with Talia Shire, John Hillerman, Barnard Hughes and John Randolph were among the supporting players that brought this film to life. Talia Shire did an admirable job as the sympathetic attorney who helped handle Chessman's many appeals. Chessman did the research and wrote all of those appeals while Ms. Asher acted on his behalf within the legal system. The film shows the alleged "crimes" along with any similarities to Chessman as well as the mindset of police at the time but the real action focuses on the trial and the subsequent legal remedies open to Chessman as he traveled toward his execution date. The arrogant Caryl Chessman was, in the final analysis, a brilliant man who studied and mastered the law during his long incarceration. It is most unfortunate he didn't use that fine mind in other pursuits prior to this. I was thoroughly convinced of his innocence and so were many, many other people but nothing and no one seemed to be able to sway the court.

    I cannot fathom why it is not available on DVD or even the old VHS format. I have never seen it being aired on any TV or Cable station after that time period but I'm almost certain it must have been. There is another, more recent, film by the same title but it has nothing whatsoever to do with this story. I can but highly recommend that if you ever have to opportunity to see this one, do so. Perhaps someone you know recorded it when it aired! If they did, be sure and watch it...It is riveting.
  • This film is just as bad as "The Birdman of Alcatraz". I do not refer to the acting but rather the premise of both films, which try to portray psychopathic criminals as heroic figures. Moreover it disturbs me when well respected, revered actors like Alan Alda (and Burt Lancaster) play such roles, because their status tends to lend credibility to the director's intent to elevate the film's subject, a societal outcast.

    I was in junior high school during the last years of Caryl Chessman's life and his death penalty appeals and books were very much in the news. I remember the groundswell of opinion that the death penalty was wrong and Chessman was the victim.

    Get a grip people. Read the history. Chessman was a criminal and sexual predator. He drove around the LA streets at night with a stolen police light in his vehicle. He stopped cars with attractive women inside under the ruse of making a traffic arrest; then abducted and raped the women. Rape is the worst trauma a woman can experience and many victims say they would prefer death to its horror and humiliation.

    Chessman got exactly what he deserved, it just took a decade too long. No sympathy for the devil here.
  • lisajayne_19998 March 2005
    I have read some drivel in my time but the comment of this movie and the header page is full of absolute crap! Obviously this person has no idea about this story at all! HE WAS INNOCENT! Yes this is a true story and the reason its great, apart from the acting, is because of the complete unjustness of the whole "Capital Punishment System" IT DOESN'T WORK! How the hell are you going to pay restitution to someone who is dead.....god you make me bloody angry. Get a grip, get your facts right, and let this be a lesson, 12 years on death row...????? if your innocent is ridiculous, you want to know what else is ridiculous. Your suppose to proved guilty beyond reasonable doubt. If there is no reasonable doubt then he should have been there one day whilst they set the damn electric chair up then did the deed....SEEMS TO ME 12 YEARS MEANS THERE IS A HELL OF A lot OF REASONABLE DOUBT. He should never have been given the death penalty at all.....No one should you bloody red neck!
  • I arrived at my destination (a commune) and was told to wait in a sitting room for them to process my application. The sitting room had a TV, and it was showing this movie. This movie was as awful as a movie can be, and by the time it was over I again truly understood how much it is a shame to waste precious time. For any reader of this post, do not see this piece of junk.

    Sometimes I have got to tell it like it is!
  • I don't usually review movies on here. I review movies I have not seen even less so heh. I enjoy mr Alda's performances . And that he starred in this TV movie that's apparently anti Death penalty is not surprising As he's tended to be in to the left productions. Now I'm as left as anyone- Except perhaps on the death penalty. Ultimately I think the government should not execute people. Why? Because I value the sanctity of all life and no one deserves that punishment? No-I think there are people who deserve that punishment. But I don't want any mistakes as in executing innocent people. Do I think most executions are of innocent people? Certainly not. But how can we tolerate even one "mistake". Even one is no longer an "execution" for a crime -It's murder by the State.

    But as far as I can follow the story of the criminal this film is based on- Chessman-Is not innocent. Apparently he didn't kill anyone-So you can argue that No one should be executed for a non lethal crime. But what he apparently did do-Specifically rapes-doesn't leave me with ant sympathy for him. So as liberal as I am-And really I am-it puzzles me - And quite frankly disgusts me-To think that people spent their time and energy Writing directing producing etc this film. As a staunch liberal this is a "liberal" film that makes me cringe just in the thought of it. A quality actor like Alda portraying Chessman-albeit as an obnoxious, cocky character- In a script that certainly on some level makes him out to be the hero of the story, a martyr. Yes I know you can say that this just uses Chessman's story to bring up reasonable dialogue about The death penalty itself. But I much prefer the approach in other movies about this subject Where we know that a character is innocent (such as in The Green Mike). This movie evidently makes it a question whether Chessman is guilty or not. But-And some may disagree with me-I think the facts of the case are pretty damning for the time Considering they didn't have DNA etc back then as evidence. He was positively identified by both rape victims. I don't see how a rapist can ever ever be any sort of protagonist in a story, Sorry.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Caryl Chessman, in 1960, was one of the last Americans executed for crimes other than murder. While on death row, he wrote a celebrated book and became the face of the anti-death penalty movement.

    Alan Alda strikes a convincing note as the cocky Caryl Chessman, convicted and sentenced to death in a string of crimes known as the Red Light Bandit attacks. The movie's creators, however, cheat a bit by making Chessman a little too sympathetic. Alda throws a chair across a room to show his frustration in one scene, but the film stops short of showing just how confrontational and difficult to like Chessman was in real life. Chessman was a brilliant writer, but anyone carefully reading his books sees a fundamentally dishonest and manipulative sociopath behind the clever prose. He proclaims his innocence of the crimes, yet never bothers to account for why their pattern so closely matches his own descriptions of his earlier exploits that landed him in Folsom Penitentiary. Had the film gone in for more of a warts and all approach to the character, it would have succeeded at being at least less dishonest than its subject.

    That said, the film accurately captures its period and brings out the many details in Chessman's trial that seemed to indicate that it was something less than fair. The film tiptoes around the central issue of Chessman's guilt, portraying the Red Light Bandit crimes in flashback without showing the identity of the perpetrator. But his fight for fair treatment by the justice system, guilty or not, makes for strong cinema. This movie is definitely worth a watch, however one might view its protagonist's guilt.