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Public Defender Gary Franklin, frustrated by being unable to save criminal Dutch Adams from a death sentence by blaming the slums environment as the cause of Dutch's crimes, enlists the aid of Dutch's sister, Marcia Adams, to get the slum dwellers at appeal for public monies to provide recreational places for the slum kids. The Governor provides seed money for the creation of PAL (the Police Athletic League) and all is going well until "Stubby" Adams holds up the box office at a fund raiser for the PAL, and puts the project in jeopardy. Do-gooder story aside, the film is basically a Columbia version of the Dead End Kids, with the hard-headed Darro standing in for Leo Gorcey and Hally Chester as his stand-in Huntz Hall-like punching bag. Written by
Les Adams <firstname.lastname@example.org>
This film is an obvious knockoff of the Warner Brothers "Dead End Kids" films (such as DEAD END, ANGELS WITH DIRTY FACES and MAYOR OF HELL)--with Frankie Darro doing a very good copy Leo Gorcey as a tough-talking juvenile gang leader. Plus, in a not very subtle attempt to copy, the studio even hired Leo Gorcey's brother, David, to be one of the gang members! Looking back at the Dead End Kids films, it's hard to imagine WHY anyone would want to copy them, but you must remember that these films were very popular and pretty well-written. It was only later with the moniker "Bowry Boys" did the films become rather cheap and formulaic B-pictures.
Now JUST being a knock-off is NOT why I rank the film so low (though, of course, this DID have a negative effect). The biggest problem is the plot itself. It is very, very derivative AND really, really sappy and poorly written. Would you like to hear some of the great dialog? Here are a couple examples: "Go slap a flounder, ya big flatfoot", "He can take it--yeah, he'll take it like a man" as well as the stellar "Society is an accessory to his crimes".
The film begins with a career criminal and murderer in court--being defended by Paul Kelly. Instead of presenting a defense, Kelly whines and talks about how society is actually to blame for this man being a killer. This bleeding heart tirade seems to go on forever, but to no avail--the mug is sentenced to death. Part of me wished they'd sentenced Kelly was well just to shut him up and stop the preaching!
The story later becomes a well-meaning but also totally clichéd and stupid. This crusading defense lawyer also wants to find something positive for the kids in the ghetto (which, by the way is amazingly ethnic and Black person-free). So, he suggests a "Police Athletic Association" (like we have today in many parts of the country). However, unlike the real P.A.L., this one makes kids sort of like junior cops and the thugs go from law-breakers to little stoolies without skipping a beat.
By the way, using Rita Hayworth in the film was a very cynical move by Columbia Pictures, as they had her made up to look almost exactly like Ann Sheridan (who had played almost the exact same role in several Dead End Kids films). In fact, the looked almost like twins and spoke almost the exact same lines of dialog. Poor Miss Hayworth deserved better, but at this point in her career she wasn't yet a star and had to take what the studio gave her.
While very difficult to believe, the film also bogs down because its answers are so overly simplistic, the plot is 100% predictable and the film itself is way too talky. For a bunch of street-wise punks, they sure talk a lot and break only a few laws. My advice is just skip this film and see any of the three I mentioned above. They are more original, have better writing and don't seem as sappy and hard to take. Believe me, this is NOT a film I want to see again!
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