Escaping to Chicago, James changes his name to Allen James and eventually becomes a successful, respected businessman. When his landlady (Glenda Farrell) discovers his past, she blackmails him into marrying her; it's a union void of love, however, and a few years later, in a fit of jealousy because Allen/James has fallen in love with another woman (Helen Vinson), the wicked woman turns him in to the authorities.
Although Allen/James had not committed any crime and has been a model citizen for years, he is returned to the chain gang, with the promise that his sentence will be for a period of only 90 days. Because he had spoken out about the inhumanity of the chain gangs, however, the "establishment" has no intention of honoring that promise, and once again, the man is forced to break his chains and live a life on the run. How everything plays out is the balance of the film.
I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang is a masterpiece of a film. It's gritty, meaty, powerful, deeply troubling and features an absolutely brilliant performance by Paul Muni...and the final line of the film is about as haunting an ending line as there ever was.
This film is out on DVD; however, I believe it is only available as part of the Controversial Classics Collection, which is a spendy $79.98. Adding to the nearly cost-prohibitive price, TCM doesn't seem to air Chain Gang very often, so it might not be an easy film to catch. Keep your eye out for it, though, as it is a spectacular must-see.