Tuesday, October 01, 2002


This early Poverty Row talkie would probably not even exist today if it weren't for Bette Davis's appearance in a supporting part. Pat O'Brien is a bootlegger who hires an orphan (Junior Durkin), newly arrived in the big city, to keep an eye on his office while he's out. On his very first day, Durkin is busted in a raid and O'Brien chooses not to help him. The rest of the movie is a fairly hundrum reform school expose--technically, I guess it's a reform school, but all they do is stack bricks and eat and sleep, so it's more like a juvenile prison. Actually, things don't seem all that bad there, but an asthmatic buddy of Durkin's (Frank Coghlan Jr.) dies in solitary, and that triggers the finale, where O'Brien has a change of heart and gets a newspaper reporter to help expose conditions at the school. The actors are OK, but the primitive filming style and the low budget hurt the film. The one effective scene takes place when O'Brien, as he drives away from his office after setting Durkin up in charge, watches in his rear view mirror as the cops raid his place. Clearly he feels bad about it, but he also doesn't have the guts to turn around and help the poor kid. Bette Davis, who appears in the beginning and end, is quite energetic and definitely stands out, even though she has llittle to work with. Even diehard Davis fans don't have to worry about missing this one.

No comments: