Thomas Crimmins (Patrick McGoohan) is a new guard at Mountjoy, an Irish prison. He is young and idealistic and determined to serve his country by meting out justice to criminals (his job involves assisting at executions).
His superior, Regan (Walter Macken), however, realises that even prisoners are human beings and is sick of the “eye-for-an-eye” attitude that leads the state to execute condemned men.
Crimmins begins to see that not all is black and white in his new world, and when he becomes involved with Kathleen (Sylvia Syms), the wife of one of the condemned men – the “quare fellow” who remains unseen throughout the film – his attitude begins to change.
When new evidence arises to suggest that Kathleen’s husband may not deserve his fate, Crimmins is torn between his duty and his humanity.
The atmosphere is depressing but the performances are wonderful, and the film is remarkably unsentimental and wholly just in its argumentative implications.
The prison scenes were filmed at Dublin’s Kilmainham Gaol, which is no longer operational.