The Roth family lead a quiet life in a small village in the German Alps during the early 1930's. When the Nazi's come to power, the family is divided and Martin Brietner, a family friend is caught up in the turmoil.
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Gangster Joe Krozac is in prison for ten years. Reporter Paul North is fired by his newspaper for writing articles sympathetic to Krozac's wife and young son. She divorces Krozac and marries North. When Korzac gets out he goes looking for his former wife and son. Written by
Ed Stephan <email@example.com>
There are a lot of theoretical strikes against this movie-- Robinson playing a Capone lookalike for the zillionth time (right before he switched mainly to playing them for comedy in things like A Slight Case of Murder and Brother Orchid); post-Code MGM instead of pre- Code Warner Bros., which surely means a softer handling of the gangster theme; a no-name director and female co-star, Jimmy Stewart in a thankless good guy role; and, not least, a sort of gangster Sin of Madelon Claudet plot in which Robinson gets to get weepy about not knowing his son while he's in Alcatraz.
And amazingly, it's all handled remarkably freshly-- and toughly, especially from the point where the movie pulls the rug out from under big shot Robinson with a long and realistically bleak prison train sequence. Almost every opportunity to sink into cliche is rethought to find a fresher angle-- instead of the archetypal Warner Bros. tough-guy prison, with the warden acting like a crime boss himself to keep his charges in line, the movie's Alcatraz is a streamlined, impersonal machine for reducing men to numbers, the striking production design as institutionally cold as the manner of the warden. The classic welcome home from the boys (such lovable gangster lugs as Lionel Stander and Edward Brophy) takes a highly unexpected turn-- and keeps turning. Although the scenes where he finally meets his son again are hampered by unrealistic dialogue for the kid, in all this is a strong and thoughtful adult drama which brings emotional realism back to a genre usually riddled with cliches.
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