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Two prisoners, Saint Louis and Dannemora Dan, escape during a theatrical production in order to go to the aid of Steve, a former prisoner whose past is about to be exposed by the man who framed Judy unless Steve agrees to help him commit another crime. Written by
Ed Stephan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
This is an OK film that would probably not be worth watching if it were not for its place in film history - the only pairing of Humphrey Bogart and Spencer Tracy and an early performance for the both of them. Here the pair both play a couple of convicts. Bogart is Steve Jordan, finishing up a sentence for manslaughter, and Tracy as Saint Louis is just starting one at the same prison. There are several strange aspects to this film about prison life and what comes afterwards. The first is that Bogart is playing the naive smiling kid whose one punch landed him in prison - you just don't run across a smiling nice-guy Bogart committed to celluloid every day of the week . The second odd aspect is that Tracy is playing a seasoned con, though with a bit of a heart of copper if not gold. It's strange to see Tracy taking "the kid" Bogart under his wing when in fact Bogart was a year older than Tracy. What makes the film better than average is that it is a believable performance by both actors.
The other strange aspect of this film is the depiction of prison life. The women are housed in the same prison as the men with just an iron gate separating the areas where the two groups have outdoor recreation. Bogart, who works in the prison office, gets to wear a suit and tie when he is at work there. The warden's little daughter walks around unguarded and treats the convicts all like uncles, and they reciprocate by treating her like a niece and reading her stories. The whole thing comes across like you are looking at life inside a Catholic high school with strict rules about the interaction of men and women, not a prison where you might have a few characters like Bogart's and Tracy's, but by and large most of these guys didn't get here by dropping out of Sunday school.
The worst part of the film is a rather inane musical number that gets inserted into the film at about the half-way point, with the convicts putting on a show. Ford got better at putting music into his films later on, but here it just intrudes on the plot.
I'd recommend viewing this. It's enjoyable enough, just be aware that the elements are in shaggy shape and that even the restored version by Fox has lots of skipping frames.
5 of 6 people found this review helpful.
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