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Hinchcliffe, the ruthless publisher of a sleazy New York tabloid, is concerned that the ethical journalistic policies of City Editor Randall have caused a drop in circulation. He pressures the newsman to run more sensational stories including resurrecting the twenty year old Vorhees Murder Case. Although the perpetrator's actions were ultimately judged justifiable, and she has been subsequently living an exemplary life in anonymity, Hunchcliffe insists Randall revisit the story. Randall assigns Isopod, an alcoholic degenerate, to dig up anything lurid that he find. The unprincipled reporter fraudulently insinuates himself into the Vorhees' home masquerading as a minister and gets the expose he sought. Yellow journalism triumphs, and a decent woman's name gets dragged through the mud again... with tragic consequences. Written by
Joseph W. Randall:
Now you listen to me, Hinchecliffe. It'll be for the last time. I'm through with your dirty rag, and I'm through with you. Oh, I'm not ducking any of the blame for this thing. You thought of the murder and I committed it. But I did it for smaller profit. For wages. You did for circulation.
You must be mad.
Joseph W. Randall:
Mad. Yes I am. All my life I'll be mad. Because all my life I'll be seeing Nancy Voorhee's daughter standing there. And asking me why I killed her mother. And I want you, Hinchecliffe, to ...
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A powerful, uncompromising early look at "Yellow Journalism" which made a great enough impact at the time to be counted among the year's best films at the Academy Awards to say nothing of the rush of similar pictures which followed in its wake, culminating in Howard Hawks' masterpiece, HIS GIRL Friday (1940).
Edward G. Robinson is re-united here with the director of LITTLE CAESAR (1930), the film that made him a star, and delivers another great performance which is sufficiently nuanced to anchor the somewhat melodramatic plot in reality. Supporting him, among many others, are Aline MacMahon as his long-suffering secretary who's secretly in love with him and Boris Karloff in a marvelous turn as the most shamelessly hypocritical reporter on the newspaper's payroll. The cynical, rapid-fire dialogue gives it an edge and an authenticity that's almost impossible to recapture these days and, needless to say, became one of the key elements in this type of film.
The film features a number of good scenes but the highlights would have to be: the split-screen technique introduced to shut out the former convict, who is now being hounded by "The Gazette", from having a conversation with either the owner of the paper or its news editor (Robinson); the lengthy and heart-breaking scene in which the female ex-convict's husband (played by the ever-reliable H.B. Warner) bids farewell to their daughter and her soon-to-be husband without letting them in on the fact that the woman has committed suicide and that he intends to join her soon after; the hysterical tirade at the end by the daughter when she finally confronts the men who have destroyed her life, a brave tour-de-force moment for Marian Marsh (familiar to horror aficionados from SVENGALI , THE MAD GENIUS  and THE BLACK ROOM ) who had so far only rather blandly served the romantic interest of the plot; the final shot of the picture, with the latest issue of "The Gazette" being swept into the gutter by street-cleaners along with the rest of the garbage, thus leaving no doubt whatsoever as to where the film-makers' true sentiments lay.
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