exciting low-budget crime film, marketed as exploitation film, from director Elmer Clifton
PAROLED FROM THE BIG HOUSE (the title on my copy, but also known as MAIN STREET GIRL) is an exciting crime film about a young lady (Jean Carmen, of Wolves of the Sea fame) whose father is killed when he refuses to go along with a protection racket. She vows revenge on the gangster who killed her father, and goes on a long quest which eventually succeeds. This is directed by the great Elmer Clifton, one-time associate of D.W. Griffith, and master of both exploitation films and westerns. Clifton had made the exploitation classics SLAVES IN BONDAGE and GAMBLING WITH SOULS for producer J.D.Kendis previous to this, but PAROLED is not really an exploitation film. It starts off with a police commissioner (Milburn Stone) giving the audience a lecture on abuses of parole through payoffs by organized-crime linked criminals who can afford it, but other than the broadly-played criminals, a scene with a few girls in negligees, and a scene where the heroine is in a room with a psycho that ALMOST becomes distasteful, there's no sleaze here. Judged against the competing poverty row crime films being produced by Monogram and Republic at this time, I'd have to say that PAROLED FROM THE BIG HOUSE works very well and is exciting. Jean Carmen is a unique looking lady who can command attention, and the script (from serial king George H. Plympton) has wonderful depression-era naturalistic touches, with Carmen pounding the pavement day after day, looking for work and homeless. There are a lot of close-ups, and as always Elmer Clifton can be given virtually no resources and the cheapest of sets and rear projection, yet make it flow. The print used by SWV on my VHS tape, released in the early 90s, looks like it was made yesterday. So many 30s genre films are taken from duplicate prints made for TV showing, and they tend to get a bit fuzzier with each duplication, but the crispness and the sharpness of this copy help make the film even more impressive. If you get this thinking it is an exploitation film (it was marketed that way both in its original release and in its video release), you may well be let down. If you think of this in comparison with other poverty row crime films of the day (just remember that static, talky films made at Grand National!), it holds up quite well. Special mention should be made of the character "Torchy", a pyromaniac member of the criminal organization, who is the film's comic relief, lighting some of the other characters on fire when they are introduced into the film! He is played with relish by Ole Oleson, who looks like a cross between John Waters and the Wild Weed-era Jack Elam.
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