The Mayor of Hell
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Five members of a teen-age gang, including leader Jimmy Smith, are sent to the State Reformatory, presided over by the melodramatically callous Thompson. Soon, Patsy Gargan, a former gangster appointed Deputy Commissioner as a political favor, arrives complete with hip flask and blonde. Gargan falls for activist nurse Dorothy and, inspired by her, takes over the administration to run the place on radical principles. But Thompson, to conceal his years of graft, needs a quick way to discredit Gargan.
Archie Mayo's The Mayor of Hell (1933) focuses on the plight of inner-city youth sent to reform schools where they're more likely to be destroyed than rehabilitated. We get a full two reels of setup (featuring troubled lad Frankie Darro, soon to star in Wild Boys of the Road) before James Cagney shows up 24 minutes in, as a political hack whose newly won sinecure of "deputy commissioner" includes token responsibility for Peakstown State Reformatory. A former slum kid himself, he evolves from "What do I have to do to make things look regular?" to taking an active interest in his charges, at the mercy of a warden (Dudley Digges) who's both corrupt and sadistic. An absurdly pain-free revolution reforms Hell for a fleeting moment, till a subplot involving Cagney's larcenous interests sidelines him and opens the way for a violent and anarchic climax. --Richard T. Jameson
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Special Features include bonus movie trailers of the story-line linked "Crime School" (with Humphrey Bogart) and "Hell's Kitchen," a vintage newsreel, a musical short "The Audition", a classic cartoon "The Organ Grinder" and a commentary by film historian Greg Mank.