Five members of a teen-age gang, including leader Jimmy Smith, are sent to the State Reformatory, presided over by the melodramatically callous Thompson. Soon, Patsy Gargan, a former ... See full summary »
Geoffrey Thorpe is an adventurous and dashing pirate, who feels that he should pirate the Spanish ships for the good of England. In one such battle, he overtakes a Spanish ship and when he ... See full summary »
After losing his bride in a Luftwaffe air raid, bomber pilot Forrester becomes a solitary killing machine, who doesn't care whether he dies. The reckless Canadian pilot is both admired and ... See full summary »
Eva has just gotten married to an older gentleman, but discovers that he is obsessed with order in his life and doesn't have much room for passion. She becomes despondent and leaves him, ... See full summary »
Ruby falls in love with small-time con man Eddie. During a botched blackmail scheme, Eddie accidentally kills the man they were setting up. Eddie takes off and Ruby is sent to a reformatory for two years.
Five members of a teen-age gang, including leader Jimmy Smith, are sent to the State Reformatory, presided over by the melodramatically callous Thompson. Soon, Patsy Gargan, a former gangster appointed Deputy Commissioner as a political favor, arrives complete with hip flask and blonde. Gargan falls for activist nurse Dorothy and, inspired by her, takes over the administration to run the place on radical principles. But Thompson, to conceal his years of graft, needs a quick way to discredit Gargan... Written by
Rod Crawford <firstname.lastname@example.org>
When Dorothy goes into her office and locks Patsy out, there is a table outside the door on which four books are resting. In the next shot, a closeup of the table top, there are only two books. See more »
Tell us what you know, I said! Never mind what you think!
Excuse me, boss. I ain't no lawyer. I can't talk without thinkin'.
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Before the Dead End Kids, there was Frankie Darro. Forgotten today, he epitomized angry desperate youth during those early depression years. Here he comes across with his usual hot-headed intensity, enough to make up for a nonthreatening small size. In fact, Darro acts a lot like a younger version of Cagney, which is no accident since the story line depends on Cagney seeing a lot of himself among the brutalized boys of the reform school. Without that, his transformation from racketeer to reformer makes little sense.
Some good scenes, such as the regimented mess hall with its robotic commands and synchronized quick-step. Also, the movie really comes alive during the well-staged riot scene. The raging mob, flickering shadows and wildly burning torches create a disturbingly hellish scene befitting the title. Still, unless I missed something, the mob really is responsible for the cruel Dudley Digges death, allowing the boys to get away with murder or at least manslaughter no matter how much Digges deserves it. This may be an example of justice prevailing over the law during those pre-code days.
Showing how closely the school's operation is tied to greedy political patronage provides an interesting touch. Nonetheless, Cagney's conversion from corrupt ward healer to the George Washington of a boy's republic remains something of a stretch. And I'm sure the stereotype of the Jewish kid may have brought some chuckles in that day, but not in this post-holocaust period. Then too, the black kid's dad may be a crude stereotype, but the boy isn't, participating importantly in republic activities. Notice how subtly his role emerges, probably so as not to offend some audiences. Still, it was a nervy move for the time. Notice also, how deglamorized the boys are. With the many shapes and sizes, they look as though they were recruited off the streets-- another nice touch.
As in most Warner Bros. pictures of the time, there's an atmosphere of New Deal reform, embodied here by the understanding judge who's willing to try unorthodox methods to remedy social ills. All in all, the film stands as an entertaining period piece, with a humane message that stands the test of time.
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