Burt Lancaster had one of his first starring roles in this hard-hitting prison drama. Capt. Munsey (Hume Cronyn) is a cruel, corrupt prison guard who has his own less-than-ethical ways of dealing with inmates, enough so that Joe Collins (Lancaster) -- the toughest inmate in the cell block -- has decided to break out. Collins tries to persuade Gallagher (Charles Bickford), the unofficial leader of the inmates and editor of the prison newspaper, to join him, but Gallagher thinks Collins' plan won't work. However, Collins does have the support of his cellmates, most of whom, like himself, wandered into a life of crime thanks to love and good intentions. Tom Lister (Whit Bissell) was an accountant who altered the books so he could buy his wife a mink coat. Soldier (Howard Duff) fell in love with an Italian girl during World War II and took the rap for her when she murdered her father. Collins pulled a bank job to raise money to pay for an operation that could possibly get his girl out of a wheelchair. And Spencer (John Hoyt) made the mistake of getting involved with a female con artist. After Munsey drives Tom to suicide and prevents Gallagher from obtaining parole, Gallagher joins up with Collins and his men in the escape attempt. Director Jules Dassin would next direct the influential noir drama The Naked City; six years later, he would move to Europe after political blacklisting prevented him from continuing to work in the United States.