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F. Richard Jones
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High school students led by the Girl and Boy turn from Christianity toward secret atheistic meetings. When a girl is accidentally killed by a stairway collapse, the Girl and Boy go to reform school where they are treated brutally. Written by
Ed Stephan <email@example.com>
The film was such a huge flop on its initial release, and proved to be such a financial strain on Cecil B. DeMille's production company, that he was forced to accept a three-picture contract with MGM, where he made his next film, Dynamite (1929), released later that same year. See more »
[while the Reformatory goes up in flames]
Whoopee! Get out your asbestos union-suits!
See more »
Cecil B. DeMille was notorious for spectacle films, and his religious ones were always successful. This movie combines both of these, but it also employs another of DeMille's talents, social commentary.
Judy (Lina Basquette) is an atheist, and passes out flyers about her Godless club to recruit new members. Bob (Tom Keene) is a Christian who hates what Judy is doing to the school. As class president, he brings a group of believers to an atheist rally to crash the party. It becomes a violent fight between the two sides which ends in the death of a girl. The leaders of the groups, Judy and Bob, are held responsible, and are sent to reform school.
This isn't the reform school from a children's film. The guards (Noah Beery) are as harsh as jail guards and they have no tolerance for mistakes. Judy finds a friend in Mame (Marie Prevost), a believer who takes on a leadership position with Judy. Her religion detracts in no way from her spunky personality, though, and she proves to be a bright spot in such a terrible place. The two girls can't seem to avoid trouble, and neither can Bob, so the three form sort of a team. But the gongs keep ringing, signaling orders to be carried out. It is inevitable that something major happens.
Of course it does, and there are revelations. The religious aspects of the film are subtle but nonetheless powerful. Any faith can watch and enjoy this movie. It is thanks to the actors for making each lesson so strong and truthful. Basquette and Keene are great together. Prevost is outstanding in her role. She commands attention because she is equally fun and moral, adding a depth not often found in sidekick roles.
The film it an absolutely amazing example of the abilities of silent film makers. The editing is fantastic, and so many innovative camera angles are used, it's amazing that talkies took so long to re-adopt them. The finished product is polished and perfect; every second is captivating.
Many thanks go to Kevin Brownlow and Photoplay Productions for the restoration of this film. Carl Davis provides an enchanting score that compliments the action wonderfully. This is a top-notch film that was worked on by top-notch film lovers.
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