|Index||6 reviews in total|
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
***SPOILERS*** With him targeting top New York City mobster Joe
Silenus, Harold Huber, the hard hitting just elected city District
Attorney Steve Donegan, Walter Pidgeon, gets framed in an elaborate
scheme involving his horse playing assistant Don Barrett, J.M Kerrigan
who's in hock to Silenus for $3,000.00.
Found guilty and sent to Sing Sing Prison on a 1 to 10 year sentence Donegan is determined to get the evidence, even behind bars, to prove his innocence. Silenus knowing how far Donegan is willing to go to get him puts a hit out on him with 6,000 more then willing inmates, many that Donegan sent there, to take up Silenus' offer.
The movie has Donegan become a marked man with everyone there trying to take a crack shot at him with the harebrained prison Warden Alvin Parkhust, Grant Mitchell, more interested in the freshness of his delivered , by the inmates, fruits & vegetables then the safety and welfare of the inmates he's in charge of. It's when Donegan is attacked from behind that his life is saved when woman inmate Anne Barry, Rita Johnson, screamed alerting him and a prison guard who gunned down his attacker. As it turned out Barry was sent up the river, like almost everyone else in Sing Sing, by District Attorney Donegan in him not believing her that she was framed! Now with him behind bars for a crime he didn't commit Donegan could see just how right she was! Even more telling it was non other then mob boss Silenus who,like he did to him, framed her!
Lots of action with a wild food fight in the prison mess-hall as well as a massive prison break to keep the audience entertained but the highlight of the movie was a boxing match between former prize fighter Donegan and Sing Sing heavyweight champ Socks Martin, Nat Pendleton. Socks together with all the other prison inmates gains Donegan's respect in him being able to stand up to his wild and mostly illegal,like rabbit and kidney, punches for 10 long and grueling rounds.
****SPOILERS**** It's when Donegan's kid brother Phil, John Arledge, who came to visit him with evidence of his innocence was gunned down by Silenus' hoods right outside of Sing Sing Prison that the prison break that was put on hold swung into action. Donegan trying to get the inmates back in their cells in order to prevent them from being gunned down is helped by Anne in backing them off with a spray of live steam from the laundry room's plumbing system. With everything now under control it's found out, from his dead brother's stack of evidence, who was responsible for framing Donegan and Anne Barry as well as murdering Phil mob Boss Joe Silenus! Indited convicted and sentenced Silenus ends up getting everything that's coming to him: A one way ticket to the Sing Sing hot seat! Freed and now engaged both Donegan & Anne check out their new house in the country and make sure that it doesn't have, after what they've been through in their stay in prison, a laundry room!
P.S Two actors in this prison movie Paul Kelly as as prison doctor Malcolm Scott and prison inmate Ransom played by Tom Neal actually served time behind bars, Kelly before and Neal after they were in the film, for manslaughter!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
For a 1939 movie, not too bad. A bonus is that it runs just barely one
hour, so tells the story fairly crisply. Walter Pigeon is one of those
'names' that stuck with me, but I don't recall seeing any of his movies
before I saw this one. Here (early 40s) he is Steve Donegan, very tough
New York prosecutor, who has put away thousands of criminals. The movie
opens with the trial of a pretty young lady Ann Barry (Rita Johnson,
about 25), accused of embezzle money. She claims it was a frame-up, and
part of his closing arguments Steve states with authority that in their
system it would be highly unlikely that someone could be framed
successfully. She is convicted and sent upstate for a long time.
Meanwhile the local crime boss wants to neutralize the active and successful prosecutor, so sets Steve up for a frame, taking bribes. Steve's words come back to haunt him, when he claims he was being framed. He is convicted, and sent to the same prison where he had 6000 Enemies (title of the movie). Many are out to get him, most of the prisoners are portrayed as either crazy or worthless hardened criminals.
Come to think of it, if he sent away an average of 2 criminals a week, 50 weeks a year, it would take 60 years to put away 6000 criminals, and many would have died during that period of time. Maybe they should have called it '1500 Enemies.'
SPOILERS. Eventually Steve and Ann Barry become allies, he realizes that she is not guilty, and when the mob boss fails to have Steve killed via an inside job, they drive by and gun down Steve's brother, walking to go visit Steve. The shooters are taken down by guard machine guns, the mob boss is exposed, Steve and Ann are exonerated. Not a very good movie overall, but fun to watch as an old classic.
I'm intrigued that Paul Kelly and Tom Neal are both in the cast of
'6000 Enemies'. Kelly and Neal both had prolific careers in tough-guy
roles, but they are now remembered largely for the fact that, in real
life, both of them (separately) did prison time for manslaughter. The
fact that '6000 Enemies' is a prison movie lends an air of irony to
Kelly's and Neal's presence in this film. As it happens, though, they
have no scenes together.
'6000 Enemies' has a premise fairly similar to that of the Howard Hawks film 'The Criminal Code', but it takes that premise in a different direction. Steven Donegan (Walter Pidgeon) is a tough D.A. who has shown no mercy to the thousands of criminals he has sent to prison. Racketeer Joe Silenus (Harold Huber) frames Donegan on a bribery charge; for good measure, Silenus has also framed pretty Anne (Rita Johnson) on an embezzlement charge. Donegan has urged no mercy for convicted criminals, so now that he is (falsely) convicted he finds himself on the receiving end of the same tough sentencing policy. Donegan and Anne are sent to the respective his'n'her hoosegows, but it's clear they're going to end up as each other's ball-and-chain.
Disbarred D.A. Donegan finds himself doing hard time in a penitentiary where all the other convicts want to kill him. (Hence the film's title.) The scenes of prison life are even less realistic than usual for prison movies from this period. The movie climaxes with a prison break (I shan't tell you if it's successful), but at this point all credibility has long since gone over the wall. In a small role as a petty thug, Frank Lackteen briefly displays his famous cheekbones and swarthy complexion. Esther Dale gives her usual "I've seen it all, dearie" performance. I'm always glad to see Nat Pendleton, Grant Mitchell and Raymond Hatton, but their performances here are more lacklustre than usual for these fine character actors. Paul Kelly has very little to do here, and Tom Neal even less: the irony of their presence in this prison flick far outweighs their actual performances. I'll rate '6000 Enemies' only 3 points out of 10. Better make that 6,001 enemies...
B-movies were inexpensively made films that lasted about an hour. They
were intended as the 2nd, or 'B' film, for a double-feature. There is a
perception that Bs were always bad films or that they were always made
by cut-rate studios but neither is true. In the case of "6000 Enemies",
it is not a bad film AND it was made by MGM--the richest and most
prestigious studio at that time. While I think the film easily could
have been better, it still hold up pretty well with other Bs.
Walter Pidgeon plays a district attorney who is a decent and honest man. As a result, organized crime hates him and they frame him for a crime he did not commit--and he's sent to prison. Naturally, many of his fellow prisoners hate him and want to kill him. With the help of a woman he sent to prison (she, too, was framed) and a nice prison doctor (Paul Kelly) he hopes to prove his innocence. However, and this REALLY is dumb, Pidgeon undergoes a magical transformation near the end that really undoes all the good writing and acting before this--and the film is, unfortunately, wrapped up way too quickly and perfectly to make it anything other than an average time-passer. High points for the film is the acting of Pidgeon and some interesting plot ideas--and they are able to carry the film further than it should have been.
By the way, it's ironic that Kelly was cast as the nice prison doctor, as he actually served time in prison for killing a man. He's one of the very few actors I can think of that had left acting due to prison and was able to make a successful return once released.
MGM'S 6000 ENEMIES (1939) bears a passing resemblance to Warner
Brothers EACH DAWN I DIE (1939) without the star power of James Cagney
and George Raft. Stalwart crime fighting citizen is unjustly framed and
put behind bars. Proves himself to the "Cons", gets the goods on the
guilty and brings them to justice, wins the girl, fade out. Oh,
forgives the society that imprisoned him destroyed his career that
leads to the death of his brother. Does not even give a thought to
filing a lawsuit. Did I mention that this is also a fantasy.
The most interesting thing about this film is seeing the way MGM handles such a subject. Or how differently they handled it nine (9) years earlier. THE BIG HOUSE (1930) is a gritty, realistic and tough depiction of prison life. THE BIG HOUSE is a dirty and very unpleasant place to be in. The inhabitants of this prison are scum with little or no saving graces. They will turn on you with the least provocation and on the flimsiest of motives.
By the time of 6000 ENEMIES things had changed. The 1934 Production Code was being enforced and at MGM Irving Thalberg was gone and with him the driving force of creativity and risk. L. B. Mayer preferred every picture to be as clean and sanitized as Dr. Kildare's instruments. No studio embraced 'The Code' more then MGM. If you were looking to stretch the envelope it better be at another studio and this film is a perfect example of that. Even the dirt looks clean and as for the gangsters you get the feeling all they need is career counseling. Even when they brought in a hi-powered actor like Edward G. Robinson (for other films) who knew how to play gangsters the results were still tepid. So there is little that Walter Pidgeon could do but fulfill his contract in a pedestrian role. Thankfully for him better days were ahead.
6,000 Enemies (1939)
*** (out of 4)
Good "B" picture from MGM about a tough-as-nails D.A. (Walter Pidgeon) who sends everyone to the big house and he takes pleasure in making sure that the streets are clear of any scum. His luck eventually runs out when a gangster frames his and soon the D.A. gets sent to the same prison where he's sent thousands of people. Once inside his life is in danger but he plans on making it through and along the way he meets a woman (Rita Johnson) he sent up who might just have been innocent as well as hold a clue to his own case. 6,000 ENEMIES is without question MGM's attempt to try and capture the mood and spirit of a Warner crime picture and for the most part it succeeds. At just 62-minutes there's really no time for any character development or any type of plot growth as everything happens without much reason for thought. The first five-minutes pretty much covers Pidgeon's rise to the top and then the next two-minutes covers his fall from grace and yet the way he's framed makes no sense and probably could have been defeated inside any court room. With that said, there's really no point in making fun of the plot too much because the movie was made to be simple entertainment and that's exactly what it manages to be. I thought the prison stuff was a lot of fun as we get a lot of familiar situations yet director Seitz really makes them seem fresh and original. One of the highlights is a scene where the D.A. wants to be put in with the regular guys instead of the safe haven so they send him to the cafeteria where a full riot breaks out. Another very good sequence has him having to fight 'Socks' Martin (Nat Pendleton) who just happens to be one of the men sent to kill him. There's another good subplot between the D.A. and a doctor (Paul Kelly) inside the prison. In a film like this it's always good to have a strong group of actors and they all do fine work here with Pidgeon fitting the role of the tough guy with ease. He has no problem making you believe he's this brilliant D.A. and he is good at showing off his toughness as well. I thought both Kelly and Pendleton added a lot of entertainment and both are strong as usual. Johnson was also very good in her role and you'll certainly be wishing you could see more of her. Character actor Grant Mitchell plays the dimwitted warden and we even get Guinn Williams in a brief part. Fans of "B" crime pictures are going to get a real kick out of this one. It's certainly far from a masterpiece but then again it wasn't trying to be GONE WITH THE WIND.
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