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C. Aubrey Smith
A wily D.A.(Brady) gets a 10 year conviction of a young 20 year old (Robert Graham)who he knows killed a man in self defense. Years later Brady becomes warden of the prison holding Graham. When Brady realizes that 6 years of working in the prison jute mill has pushed Graham to the breaking point, he gives him a chance- a new job as his valet. Graham responds well and earns the respect of both the warden and his beautiful daughter. Graham's mettle is put to the test when he stumbles onto a prison murder committed by his cell-mate. He must choose between the criminal code of silence and the warden's strong persuasion to reveal the killer. Written by
Gary Jackson <email@example.com>
In The Criminal Code the bywords of District Attorney Walter Huston is that where there is a crime, someone has to pay. Or if you can't do the time, don't do the crime as a later philosopher named Tony Baretta opined. And it's Huston's job to set the price when he prosecutes.
But Huston recognizes that young Phillips Holmes with a proper criminal defense attorney might do little time or even be acquitted. He smashed some poor guy's head in with a full bottle of bootleg hooch when he thought he was going for a gun. Still Holmes is convicted and he gets a ten year sentence.
Fast forward several years and Huston is no longer the District Attorney, he's now the warden of the prison that Holmes is incarcerated. Huston gives Holmes a chance and he makes him a trustee. Huston's daughter Constance Cummings even falls for Holmes.
But they have a different code among the convicts in prison and the biggest commandment is thou shalt not rat. When Boris Karloff does a particular rat in Holmes almost takes the fall for it because of that code.
The leads do a fine job in this, but the performances of Boris Karloff as the hardened convict and Clark Marshall as his victim really do stand out in The Criminal Code. Marshall especially, you can really feel his fear in his performance.
Beginning originally as a Broadway play, The Criminal Code was remade twice by Columbia Pictures, Harry Cohn not being one to let a good property go to waste. The two remakes are Penitentiary with Walter Connolly and John Howard and Convicted with Broderick Crawford and Glenn Ford.
The film holds up very well because the themes are eternal. Criminals have to pay the price when caught and rats are just as unpopular as ever.
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