A criminal known as Thunderbolt is imprisoned and facing execution. Into the next cell is placed Bob Moran, an innocent man who has been framed and who is in love with Thunderbolt's girl. ...
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In late 19th century Vienna, Lena Smith, a naive peasant girl from Hungary, has a child by a corrupt young cavalry officer, and goes to work his house as a servant, hiding the truth from ... See full summary »
Josef von Sternberg
Gustav von Seyffertitz
A cowardly young man, a bitter young woman and a helpless child live on the docks, spend their days full of ennui watching a dredge dig the same hole day in and day out, chased around by ... See full summary »
Josef von Sternberg
George K. Arthur,
The story is set in the seamy Soho section of London, where burglar Basher Bill shares bed and board with his sluttish girlfriend Annie. As wicked as they come, Bill softens when he meets virtuous Salvation Army lass Elizabeth.
Joan and Magdalen are the daughters of a fisherman. Magdalen leaves her fiancé, Peter, to run off to the big city. Joan and Peter marry. Magdalen's return years later causes trouble for the... See full summary »
Josef von Sternberg
Charles K. French
A criminal known as Thunderbolt is imprisoned and facing execution. Into the next cell is placed Bob Moran, an innocent man who has been framed and who is in love with Thunderbolt's girl. Thunderbolt hopes to stave off the execution long enough to kill young Moran for romancing his girl.Written by
Jim Beaver <firstname.lastname@example.org>
One of the earliest of over 700 Paramount productions, filmed between 1929 and 1949, which were sold to MCA/Universal in 1958 for television distribution, and have been owned and controlled by MCA ever since. However, because of its extreme age, and primitive sound recording techniques, there is no record of it ever having been locally televised. On cable TV it received what may have been its first and only telecast on Turner Classic Movies in August 2016. See more »
Listen Doc, you just gotta see that this man lives. Do something. I've got to execute him tonight.
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... at least for early sound. The title character in particular, Thunderbolt, played by George Bancroft, is a rather complex gangster character for a dawn of sound movie. What do you say about a man who'd go to great lengths to kill a fellow he has never met just on general principle but who loves the stray dog that causes him to finally get pinched and put in the death house to the point that when the death house warden grants him a favor, Thunderbolt asks for that same dog to stay in his cell as a pet? Fay Wray, only 21 at the time, plays Ritzy, Thunderbolt's girl, with a sense of world-weariness that is wise beyond her years. When the film opens she's being hassled by the police to give up Thunderbolt's hiding place in some really classic early sound police interrogation scenes. Ironically, she really wants to be free of Thunderbolt, who swears he'll never let her go, especially if there's another guy involved, and there is - bank teller Bob Morgan played by Richard Arlen.
The first third of the film moves about quite a bit with some great jazz age settings, but the last two-thirds is primarily confined to the death house where Thunderbolt awaits his appointment with the chair. There's lots of atmosphere in this one with the death row quartet that keeps getting broken up as one fellow is executed and then restarted as another inmate enters. The death row warden is an interesting fellow, with eccentricity and nervousness balanced by a humane streak to the point that he seems misplaced - he seems like he'd be happier managing the shoe department in some retail store.
The end has a surprise twist to it that makes Thunderbolt rethink his rather complex plan of revenge just as he makes that last walk to the chair. I'm being intentionally vague here so I don't ruin it for you. Watch it for the surprising sophistication of this early sound piece, for the kind of atmosphere you can always count on in a von Sternberg film, and for that general touch of class that you find in the early Paramount talkies.
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