by Hal Erickson
Director Michael Mann co-wrote the teleplay for The Jericho Mile with Patrick J. Nolan. Peter Strauss stars as “Rain” Murphy, serving a life sentence in Folsom Prison for first-degree murder. To break up the boredom of prison life, Murphy begins running laps around the prison recreation track. Prison officials take notice when Murphy runs a mile in less than four minutes. They lobby to enter Murphy into the Olympics, an act of largesse that not only pulls Murphy out of his misanthropy but also helps to unify his racially divided fellow prisoners. Originally telecast March 18, 1979, The Jericho Mile was filmed on location at Folsom Prison, with several inmates playing small roles–and talking the talk of prisoners, never mind the TV censors.
Time Out wrote:
Made for TV, this is part gritty prison movie, part equally gritty fairytale (sympathetic killer obsessively runs to Olympic standard). It’s generally upbeat without being remotely wimpish or excessively naive: the walls don’t simply fall, and the optimism has to seep through a quasi-documentary context of racism and violence. It’s really well acted by pros and inmates, crafted to manipulative perfection; and it beats Rocky every which way. See it, be suckered, be entertained.