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The Public Defender (1931)

Passed | | Crime, Drama, Mystery | 1 August 1931 (USA)
Rich playboy Pike Winslow dons the mantle of 'The Reckoner', a mysterious avenger, when he learns that his lady friend Barbara Gerry's father has been framed in a bank embezzlement scandal.... See full summary »



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Complete credited cast:
Purnell Pratt ...
John Kirk
Ruth Weston ...
Rose Harmer
Frank Wells
Charles Harmer
Alan Roscoe ...
Inspector Malcolm O'Neill
The Professor
Aunt Matilda
Carl Gerard ...
Cyrus Pringle
Robert Emmett O'Connor ...
Detective Brady (as Robert Emmet O'Connor)
Thomas Drake (as Phillip Smalley)


Rich playboy Pike Winslow dons the mantle of 'The Reckoner', a mysterious avenger, when he learns that his lady friend Barbara Gerry's father has been framed in a bank embezzlement scandal. Using meticulous planning and split-second timing, Pike, along with his associates, the erudite 'Professor' and tough-guy scrapper 'Doc', attempt to find proof that will clear Gerry and identify the real culprits. Written by Doug Sederberg <vornoff@sonic.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


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Release Date:

1 August 1931 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Million Dollar Swindle  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


(Turner library print)

Sound Mix:

(RCA Photophone System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Little Daddy (1931) and a Toby the Pup cartoon played before this film in some venues during it's original release. See more »

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User Reviews

What's not to like about this one?
18 June 2011 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

"The Reckoner", a vigilante of sorts, does the things that the police won't do - he brings lying stealing greedy banksters to justice. Considering what's been going on in the country the last three years as I'm writing this, the plot itself should win this one lots of fans.

It's a shame that if Richard Dix is remembered at all it's often for his part in Best Picture winner Cimarron - his hammiest performance - rather than gems like this one. Here Richard Dix plays millionaire Pike Winslow, heir to a large fortune who, though well liked among the wealthy crowd, seems to be a bit of an idler. However, the truth of the matter is that he is "The Reckoner" who - along with two faithful assistants - steals incriminating documents from perpetrators of financial fraud and then does some financial forensic analysis to shine a spotlight on their crimes. The amusing thing here is that Pike's forensic analyst, "The Professor", is played by Boris Karloff. He pulls off the role of the erudite man of letters devoted to the cause of The Reckoner quite well.

I couldn't help seeing the parallels between The Reckoner and Batman here. It would have been nice if, back when Warner Brothers was building deluxe DVD sets, they had put this movie as an extra to one of their Batman DVD releases - Warner Brothers owns the RKO library and therefore this film - plus this movie is unusual for early RKO properties in that it is in a very watchable state already. Highly recommended for anyone who likes an old thriller.

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