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 »
Ex-convict Danny Kean decides to become honest as a photographer for a paper. He falls in love with Patricia, the daughter of the policeman who arrested him. Mr Nolan, her father, doesn't ... See full summary »
It's the early days of the F.B.I. - federal agents working for the Department of Justice. Though they've got limited powers - they don't carry weapons and have to get local police approval ... See full summary »
Although innocent, reporter Frank Ross is found guilty of murder and is sent to jail. While his friends at the newspaper try to find out who framed him, Frank gets hardened by prison life ... See full summary »
Small time con artist Lefty Merrill has co-organized a crooked dance marathon and set-up his girlfriend to win the prize money. When his partner disappears with money before the contest is ... See full summary »
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>
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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