43 user 19 critic

Safe in Hell (1931)

Passed | | Crime, Drama | 12 December 1931 (USA)
After accidentally killing the man who raped her and forced her into prostitution, a New Orleans woman flees to a Caribbean island. While she awaits her fiancé, the vicious local police chief sets his sights on her.


William A. Wellman


Houston Branch (play), Joseph Jackson (adaptation) | 1 more credit »




Complete credited cast:
Dorothy Mackaill ... Gilda Carlson - aka Gilda Erickson
Donald Cook ... Carl Bergen - aka Carl Erickson
Ralf Harolde ... Piet Van Saal
John Wray ... Egan
Ivan F. Simpson ... Crunch (as Ivan Simpson)
Victor Varconi ... General Emmanuel Jesus Maria Gomez
Morgan Wallace ... Mr. Bruno - the Hangman
Nina Mae McKinney ... Leonie - the Hotel Manager
Charles Middleton ... Lawyer Jones
Clarence Muse ... Newcastle - the Porter
Gustav von Seyffertitz ... Larson (as Gustav Von Seyffertitz)
Noble Johnson ... Bobo - a Caribbean Policeman
Cecil Cunningham ... Angie


Sought by the New Orleans police for accidentally killing the man who raped her and forced her into prostitution, a woman flees New Orleans for a Caribbean island. Surrounded by lecherous criminals, she awaits the return of her fiancé and seems to be holding her own until the treachery of the local police chief leaves her but one choice to gain her freedom. Written by indexcard

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Lost in a land of forgotten men- Hell lower than that from which she fled. (Print Ad- Lockport Union-Sun and Journal, ((Lockport NY)) 1 February 1932) See more »


Crime | Drama


Passed | See all certifications »

Did You Know?


According to a contemporary article in Film Daily, Michael Curtiz was announced as the director for this film. See more »


While Carl is away, Gilda supposedly plays over 3400 games of solitaire in two weeks. Assuming an average of five minutes per game, this would require her to play at least 16 hours every single day. See more »


Gilda Carlson - aka Gilda Erickson: I aint got so many friends that I'm forgetting ANY of them.
See more »

Crazy Credits

The title card shows burning flames covering the letters of the title. See more »


Remade as Men in Exile (1937) See more »


The Darktown Strutters' Ball
(1917) (uncredited)
Music by Shelton Brooks
Played when Gilda arrives at the Claybridge Apartments
Played briefly on piano by Dorothy Mackaill
See more »

User Reviews

Pre-code film about a prostitute on the lam...
8 March 2011 | by DoylenfSee all my reviews

DOROTHY MACKAILL is a name unknown by today's moviegoers but she was a pretty good actress judging by her work as a prostitute on the lam in SAFE IN HELL. It's the kind of tough gal role that would have suited someone like Barbara Stanwyck, but Mackaill is a pretty blonde who nails her character completely.

After giving her ex-lover rough treatment and thinking he's dead after his apartment catches fire, she's advised to flee to a tropical island where there's no extradition to the United States for criminals. What she discovers is that the island is a living hell and all of its inhabitants are fugitives from the law.

There's such a ring of familiarity about the whole story that I can swear it must have been remade years later, perhaps for an Ann Sheridan movie or a vehicle for Jean Harlow. I'll have to check it out, but I'm sure I've seen this whole story before in a later version.

For pre-code fans, this is a "must see." All of the situations are racy enough to send the censors reeling and some of the dialog is crisp and believable in a way that most films of the '30s never achieve.

About as downbeat as any film about sinners, it's directed in forthright fashion by William A. Wellman, with some decidedly unpleasant looking men cast in supporting roles as island outcasts. Worth a watch for the performances of Dorothy Mackaill and Nina Mae McKinney in the only femme roles.

Only other recognizable cast member for me was IVAN SIMPSON, who had a brief scene in THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD where he played the proprietor of Kent Road Tavern who admits Maid Marian so that she can inform Robin's men about his capture.

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Release Date:

12 December 1931 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Lost Lady See more »

Filming Locations:

New Orleans, Louisiana, USA See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.20 : 1
See full technical specs »

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