The film tells the sometimes poignant life story of rapist Caryl Chessman, who was sentenced to San Quentin's Death Row and later executed. He is seen in his teen years as a petty thief committing a string of senseless crimes, and later as a violent man arrogantly defying society's laws.
CELL 2455 DEATH ROW is based on the autobiography of condemned prisoner and "jailhouse lawyer" Caryl Chessman. William Campbell plays the Chessman counterpart, here renamed Whit. A seriously disturbed misfit, Whit begins a life of crime, culminating in sexual assault as the "Lover's Lane Bandit." Condemned to the gas chamber at San Quentin, Whit spends six years fighting his sentence, gradually winning the support and sometimes the respect of various legal experts. The film ends in 1955 (the year of its production), some five years before Caryl Chessman's ultimate execution; accordingly, the film's "open-ended" finale has been removed from many TV prints. A more thorough and incisive study of the Chessman case was offered in the made-for-TV movie KILL ME IF YOU CAN, which starred Alan Alda.
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