Synopsis:BAREFOOT MEL is a true story. In September of 1978, a nerdy but bright convict named Larry Chism forms a conspiracy with friends on the outside to break he and others out of a prison in Only, Tennessee. A loose cannon inmate named Ronald Lyons, and two other cons, join Chism in the breakout scheme...
... it's a scheme that involves shotguns hidden above the ceiling tiles in the men's restroom of a Dickson, Tn. bowling alley where these 'model prisoners' are taken on a recreational outing. Chism and Lyons come out of the restroom with guns blasting, taking on the guards in a bizarre Wild West-like shootout. The guards are wounded and overpowered, the cons are in charge, and they grab the concession stand girl, Carolyn Barnett, as an impromptu hostage. Stealing a car, Chism and gang, and the girl, hit the road on a predetermined path toward...
... the local Dickson County airport. That's where Mel Romine is manager of this small town airstrip. After laboring hard at airplane maintenance, Mel is kicked back in his office as his son, Robert, home on leave from the military, is seated in the office restroom. That's when the door bursts open and Mel is confronted with four rugged and blood-splattered convicts, and a very scared teenage girl. Chism's demand is simple: Mel will fire up a plane and fly everyone out of state. But Mel is a hard-ass about all of this. He takes his time trying to find the appropriate key to his plane. Mel's lack of cooperation is reversed somewhat when Robert is discovered in the restroom and threatened with a shotgun pressed to the back of his head. Mel finds his plane keys.
Once everyone gets to the plane, Mel announces with some satisfaction that his plane is only made for four people. An angry Chism and Lyons have no choice but to leave Robert and the girl behind - but they still have Mel for a hostage. Seeing his dad for what he believes will be the last time, Robert watches the plane takeoff. Then Robert gets to a phone, calls the local law enforcement - who are already going nuts - and lets them know what has happened.
In the air, Chism tells Mel to head west, toward his old homeplace of Arkansas. (Why anyone would want to escape TO Arkansas is beyond Mel's understanding). Crammed aboard the plane, Mel plays mental cat-and-mouse games with Chism and Lyons; who is REALLY in charge here?
On the ground, Robert is worried about his father, and law enforcement in Tennessee scrambles on high alert. They try to track the plane, but among its mechanical faults, the plane has no functioning transponder. And an attempt to follow the plane is impossible because...
... there is a thunderstorm from hell. Mel flies right into it. It's a wild ride; a one-of-a-kind roller coaster with the possibility of death at the end. But Mel pulls everyone through, and - for the moment - he has taken charge.
Mel, Chism and fellow cons, finally make it to the back hills of Arkansas,putting down in a field... just as the plane is running out of fuel. Now that the belligerent Mel has served his purpose, the question arises as to whether or not he's released by the cons - or killed. Mel, who has acted fearless through the entire day, discovers that he has changed.
Yes, the story of BAREFOOT MEL does have a conclusion - and reading the screenplay is the best way to get there.
Mel Romine of Dickson, Tennessee told me his story... then passed away a few months later. I couldn't let the story go, and it wouldn't let me go. After three years of research and writing, here's the kick-ass script.