Cell 2455, Death Row

Caryl Whittier Chessman was reborn on Death Row. After a short, vicious life (more like a spree) of criminality, the 27-year old was condemned to death for being the “Red Light Bandit,” though he denied all 17 counts of robbery, rape, and kidnapping leveled against him. Once confined to San Quentin's Cell 2455, Whit became a dead man talking (and writing) about his troubled past. Director Fred Sears's searing but sympathetic exposé corners Whit (played with savage gusto by William Campbell) in his “10-by-4-foot coffin,” recollecting a life well-bent and reframing his checkered upbringing as the aggravated acts of a hastily maturing delinquent. The young Whit is a defiant punk whose innate rage rails at authority; looking back, the condemned, more mindful Whit is perplexed by his own thuggery. Though it's filled with stick-ups and shoot-outs filmed in bruising black and white, Cell 2455 pens a contrite con seeking redemption before the pellet drops. “Why? Why? Why?” Whit wonders.

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