Customer Review

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Remove The Double Toothpicks, Re-Instate the 'L's", September 12, 2009
This review is from: Hell's House (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. He can't without implicating himself. The editor uses emotional blackmail to get him to finally take the fall and the young boy does not have to return to the reformatory. The editor blows the lid off the reformatory conditions and the ensuing headlines cause investigations. Ms. Davis, very young, very beautiful and kinda blonde has a very minor role, but she steals the show. Her fur- trimmed outfit is to die for. Jr. Durkin is great as is his charming little friend, "Shorty."
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3.2 out of 5 stars (13 customer reviews)
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