Based on the autobiography of convicted killer John Resko (played here by Ben Gazzara), this routine biographical drama looks at the crucial years between 1931 and 1949 in the convict's life. That period begins when Resko is convicted of killing a store owner and is sentenced to life in prison. After his arrival in prison Resko eventually gets involved in creating art, an activity that leads to a transformation in his character. That change became evident enough to garner the attention of the powers-that-be and by 1949, Resko receives a pardon. The prison system is shown as improving between the killer's first internment and his release, which in itself might make some viewers wonder what happened then, in the years between 1949 and the present.