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Hell's House


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Product Details

  • Actors: Bette Davis, Pat O'Brien, Junior Durkin, Frank Coghlan Jr., Emma Dunn
  • Directors: Howard Higgin
  • Writers: Howard Higgin, B. Harrison Orkow, Paul Gangelin
  • Producers: B.F. Zeidman
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Black & White, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Alpha Video
  • DVD Release Date: October 7, 2003
  • Run Time: 72 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0000AGWM9
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #44,093 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Hell's House" on IMDb

Special Features

None.

Editorial Reviews

Bette Davis, Pat O'Brien. Jimmy is sent to a home for juvenile delinquents and discovers what a hell's house really is. Strong performances by Davis and O'Brien bring to life the reality and the horrors of young men in prison. 1932/color/72 min/NR/fullscreen.

Customer Reviews

I mean, we're talking Edward-G-Robinson-in-Scarface here.
Robert Beveridge
In the Poverty Row melodrama HELL'S HOUSE, a naivé kid is sent to reform school for not infoming on a cowardly bootlegger that he admires.
Annie Van Auken
It's a pretty unbelievable ending, and the picture is not very memorable.
Bomojaz

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Bomojaz on June 3, 2006
Format: VHS Tape
Part reform movie and part "B" picture melodrama, Junior Durkin plays a kid who idolizes bootlegger Pat O'Brien; when O'Brien hires him as a go-fer, Durkin is in his glory. Little does he realize that O'Brien has eyes for his girlfriend, Bette Davis. When the bootlegger's joint gets raided and Durkin is arrested, he refuses to rat out O'Brien and the kid is sent to reform school for three years. Here the boy is cruelly mistreated; when another boy at the school dies, a newspaper threatens to expose what's going on (that's the reform angle). When Durkin finds out from his mother that O'Brien and Davis are a number, he escapes and pays a visit to Davis. She feeds him the line that she was only doing it to get O'Brien to spring him. Then when the cops show up on Durkin's tail, O'Brien confesses. It's a pretty unbelievable ending, and the picture is not very memorable. It's interesting to see Davis this early in her career, though, and some of her scenes with O'Brien are decent, if not great.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Joseph P. Menta, Jr. VINE VOICE on June 12, 2007
Format: DVD
Undistinguished, yet a perfectly watchable depression/prohibition-era melodrama set mostly in a workhouse for delinquent kids. For those Bette Davis fans out there, yes, Bette Davis is in this movie, but it by no means a "Bette Davis movie". Ms. Davis plays the girlfriend of a bootlegger, but doesn't get to do much besides show that she has the conscience her boyfriend lacks (until the unlikely conclusion where the bootlegger all of a sudden feels guilt for those he ground under his boots on the way up). She's also not onscreen much, with most of the running time being devoted to a misguided kid trying to make his way in the workhouse after he refuses to dime out his bottlegger boss.

All in all, this churned-out, second-tier melodrama is a fairly painless stopover for Bette Davis completists. The movie is only 72 minutes long, the print isn't bad (though it's not sharp and restored, by any means), and there's a nice gallery of other vintage-era DVD offerings to scroll through, which mostly feature original movie poster art on the DVD boxes pictured.
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Format: Blu-ray
A young Bette Davis, the struggling actress was trying to make it in Hollywood.

Close to being terminated by Universal Studios a year prior, fortunately she was defended by cinematographer Karl Freund and was given a chance to be in a motion picture.

Davis would make her debut in "The Bad Sister" and would star in a few other films in 1931, but nothing that the actress could capitalize on. But Universal Studios renewed her contract for three more months and lent out to various movie companies.

In 1932, she was lent to B.F. Zeidman Productions Ltd. for the movie "Hell's House" which would be directed by silent film director Howard Higgen and would star Bette Davis, Pat O'Brien (who would later star in the James Cagney film "Angels with Dirty Faces" and the Ronald Reagan film "Knute Rockne All American") and would star teen actor Junior Durkin (who would play Huckleberry Finn in "Tom Sawyer" and "Huckleberry Finn") as the main protagonist Jimmy..

While the pre-code, low-budget film was not a box office hit, it is one of the few very early Bette Davis films that is in good condition and was shot during the latter years of the Prohibition Era.

And now "Hell's House" which was mastered in HD from an original 35 mm print from Bette Davis's personal collection (and was donated to the Library of Congress), will be released for the first time on Blu-ray courtesy of Kino Lorber.

The Blu-ray was released on June 2013 with another Blu-ray release for an early Bette Davis film titled "Of Human Bondage" (1934).

VIDEO:

"Hell's House" is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:33:1 aspect ratio) and in black and white.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Phoebe Stogstill on September 12, 2009
Format: DVD
This early Bette Davis movie is about graft and corruption in a boys reformatory. This fictional piece probably described many such places of the time and could have been an attempt of passive agressive exposure by the author. Pat O'Brien plays a slick bootlegger with a quirky sense of humor. He also is a master of some very lame magic tricks, is a braggart and name dropper. He does not know any of the people whose names he drops. He is a sharp dresser and afficianado of one liners. When he gets a bit fresh with Bette, he quips, "I just washed my hands and can't do a thing with them!" He suckers a poor recently orphaned 15 year old boy who worships him and needs a job into becoming a part of his bootlegging operation with the promise of big bucks. The catch is that he must not tell anyone of their association or name any names if there is any trouble. The kid, played by Jr. Durkin has no idea he is involved in anything illegal, he is that naive. He is then apprehended and sent to the reformatory, divulging nothing. He had the chance to go free if he would name names and refuses, convinced that the bootlegger will find a way to spring him quickly. Instead, he spends three years in the place in almost unbearable conditions and worse, he witnesses horrible cruelty perpetrated against the friends he has made there. A newspaper man knows of the corruption but can't prove it. He tells the warden to come clean, to save the lives of young men, but he won't. Meanwhile the young man escapes in a food barrel for the sole reason of getting medical help for a dying friend in the reformatory. Ms. Davis has offered her friendship to the boy before so he winds up on her doorstep with his sad tale. She is determined to make things right, so she coerces her bootlegger beau to spill his guts to the newspaper editor.Read more ›
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