The newly appointed warden (Paul Kelly, THE HIGH AND THE MIGHTY) of San Quentin prison has progressive ideas on how to treat and rehabilitate prisoners. He sets his sight on one particular hardened prisoner (Louis Hayward) and is determined to reach him. But the prison's first female nurse (Joanne Dru) may have a better chance of getting there first. Although based on the memoirs of Clinton Truman Duffy who was a warden at San Quentin for 12 years, the screenplay by the director Walter Doniger and Berman Swartiz doesn't ring true. It comes across as melodramatic as any of those 1930s Warner Brothers prison dramas and with a lot less vigor and style. BRUTE FORCE it ain't! It tries to balance being a "message" picture with a standard prison life movie and fails at both. It doesn't help that Hayward is sorely miscast. Hayward can be impressive in swashbucklers or as an elegant villain but as a bitter hard bitten criminal, he snarls and snaps to no avail and he looks quite aged. Even that ace wizard of cinematography John Alton (THE BIG COMBO) can't seem to find a visual style. With Maureen O'Sullivan as Kelly's wife (and stuck with the film's dull domestic scenes), George Macready, Horace McMahon and DeForest Kelley.