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I think the movie, which was in color, was set in a remote area of England or Scotland. The prisoner figures out how to escape from his cell. One night he 'goes out', kills someone with an ax, and while returning to his cell passes another man, rubs the blood from the ax on him and stuffs the ax into the other guy's hand before running off. Then he returns to his cell and pretends to be asleep. Part of his escape was based on using a grotesque chess set that he had made. While the guard goes off to get his own set, since he can't stand using the prisoner’s, the prisoner uses wire to hook the door latch so he can open it again after lights out. He is caught because while he's committing the murder a pet bird owned by the victim crawls into his coat pocket. While looking in on the apparently sleeping prisoner, trying to figure out what is going on, the hero see the bird crawl out of the pocket and realizes that - somehow - this guy really did do the murder.

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When did you watch this? How old did it look? –  coleopterist Oct 10 '13 at 20:15
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I'd say it was in the 1960's when I saw the film. –  Robert K. Smith Oct 10 '13 at 23:16
    
+1: Excellent description with a plethora of significant and unique details! –  wallyk Nov 25 '13 at 3:20
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1 Answer 1

Some parts sound similar to The Night Visitor (1971). It is not a prison, but an insane asylum.

From Wikipedia:

An inmate named Salem (Max von Sydow) escapes from an insane asylum in the dead of winter. His destination is the house of his sister, Ester (Liv Ullmann), and her husband, Anton (Per Oscarsson). His quest is revenge as he sets about framing Anton because Salem feels he was set up for a horrendous axe murder two years previously. On the case is a police inspector (Trevor Howard) who must determine if Anton is really crazy for claiming he saw Salem outside of the asylum and discover if Salem was really framed.

From IMDB:

A man named Salem escapes from an insane asylum where he was confined for an axe-murder. Falsely convicted under a plea of "guilty due to insanity", he does not plan to let his sister and her husband forget that they were responsible for the murder of a farmhand and for his cruel imprisonment in the asylum.

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