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The working title of this film was Hellgate Prison. Hellgate marked the only production of the Commander Films Corp.; an October 1951 Hollywood Reporter news item listed the production company as Tower Productions. Although Hollywood Reporter reported in April 1949 that U-I had purchased the story and signed John C. Champion to develop an original screenplay with Sam Newman, only Champion and Charles Marquis Warren received onscreen credit as writers. The extent of Newman's contribution to the finished film has not been determined. In addition, Hollywood Reporter named Warren as the producer of the film in June 1951, although Champion was credited onscreen as producer. The picture's start date was postponed from January to late March 1952 because of inclement weather, and although pre-production Hollywood Reporter news items state that locations were considered in Kanab, UT, Lone Pine, CA and New Mexico, Lippert press information stated that the picture was partially shot in Bronson Canyon in Los Angeles. Whether or not location shooting was done in the places mentioned in Hollywood Reporter news items has not been determined.
A June 28, 1951 Hollywood Reporter news item states that Lloyd Bridges was signed to star in the film, but he was replaced by Sterling Hayden. According to Hollywood Reporter news items, the following actors are included in the cast: House Peters, Jr., Sam Newman, Michael Rogan, Ed Cobb, Frank Mathias, Bob Peoples, Mickey Simpson, Guy Hearn, Doug Evans, Bruce Dane, Carl Davis and O. Z. Whitehead. Their appearance in the final film has not been confirmed. A modern source indicates that the film was based on the 1936 Twentieth Century-Fox film The Prisoner of Shark Island, directed by John Ford and starring Warren Baxter (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1930-41). Hellgate, however, bares only a passing resemblance to the 1936 picture, which recounted the true story of Dr. Samuel Mudd, a man falsely accused of involvement in the assassination of President Lincoln, who eventually proves his moral standing by helping to save a prison from disaster. In 1958, CBS broadcast a television movie based on the same story, titled The Case for Dr. Mudd.