Men in prison have their privileges taken away and make a daring attempt to break out by using force.
Joe Collins (Burt Lancaster) returns to his cell from solitary for having a shiv. Captain Munsey (Hume Cronyn) thanks Gallagher (Charles Bickford) for settling a feud and warns him about having a gang. Calypso (Sir Lancelot) sings and pours brandy for Dr. Walters (Art Smith). McCollum warns Warden Barnes (Roman Bohnen) that he wants no more trouble, but Dr. Walters says that McCollum's methods make men worse. Joe gets a visit from his lawyer, who tells him Ruth will not have the operation without him there. Joe asks Dr. Walters about cancer.
At 10:30 men start a fight and kill Wilson in a machine. Joe tells Gallagher that they can break out, but Gallagher is hoping for parole. Spencer (John Hoyt) tells about Flossie (Anita Colby), who during a raid got his gun and his money. Joe visits a man in the infirmary who tells him the drain-pipe is a way out. Tom (Whit Bissell) remembers giving his wife Cora (Ella Raines) a fur coat after embezzling.
Munsey wants information from Tom and says he censors his letters to his wife, who is divorcing him. The Warden warns prisoners he may take their privileges away. Tom hangs himself. Munsey questions his cell-mates and assigns them to work in the drain-pipe. Louie (Sam Levene) tells Gallagher that privileges have been revoked. Gallagher complains to the Warden, who says all parole hearings are cancelled. Gallagher sends a message to Joe, and they meet in the chapel. Joe says they will take the tower from both sides at 12:15.
Robert (Howard Duff) remembers Gina (Yvonne De Carlo) in Italy. Munsey tells Dr. Walters that kindness is weakness. Walters blames Munsey for Tom's death and calls him a psychopath. Munsey knocks Walters down. Walters says that brute force makes leaders and destroys them. Joe recalls stopping to see ill Ruth (Ann Blyth). Louie in the garage gets a gun and arranges for a truck, but he tells Gallagher they have no dynamite. Louie asks for a pass to the drain-pipe, but he is taken to Munsey. Louie is handcuffed, interrogated, and beaten by Munsey, who knows of the plan to break out at 12:15.
Dr. Walters goes to Joe and tells him that Munsey knows. Joe asks others what position they want and figures that Freshman (Jeff Corey) is the informer. Munsey has men with an extra machine gun ready. In the drain-pipe they overcome the guards, and Joe gets a gun. The Warden announces he resigned and that Munsey is in charge. The prisoners shout. Men from the truck throw fire bombs at the tower. Joe puts Freshman in front, and he is killed. Joe is shot. Gallagher drives the burning truck into the gate. Joe climbs up the tower, opens the gate, fights Munsey, and throws him off the tower. Dr. Walters tells Calypso that Joe is dead. He wonders why they keep trying to escape when they always fail.
This drama portrays the desperation men feel in prison
and the anger that builds up toward sadistic guards. Yet fighting
back with brute force just makes things worse for everyone.