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Hell's House (1932)
Topic Started: Mar 15 2015, 07:11 AM (270 Views)
Laughing Gravy
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Hell's House (1932) Dir. Howard Higgen

Low-budget independent drama filmed in late 1931 but seeming to come out of 1928; almost no music, static camera angles, and stilted acting by much of the cast. But the film had two future stars in it, and saw a healthy reissue life (thanks to Astor Pictures). Kino released a restored copy of it on BD a couple of years ago.

Junior Durkin is a very nice 14-year-old who is suddenly orphaned and shows up at the doorstep at his Aunt and Uncle in the Big City. Trying to help them out in those Great Depression times, he gets a job answering the phone for boarder Pat O'Brien, not knowing that O'Brien's a bootlegger. When the place is raided, Junior's the only one there, and takes the rap and heads to Reform School and SAY, didn't the Dead End Kids do this about 10 times? There, he becomes pals with sickly Junior Coghlan, and when I say pals, I mean I've had girlfriends who didn't act as icky as THESE two do. Anyway, Junior (Durkin, not Coghlan) keeps the faith, sure that buddy O'Brien will use his connections to spring him while Junior (Coghlan, not Durkin) gets weaker from a heart ailment. And Aunt and Uncle and O'Brien girlfriend Bette Davis wonders where the kid went.

Bette is VERY good and very pretty in this film, with a set on her five times bigger than the set Pat O'Brien's got. She makes the movie.

Million-dollar Dialog:
Kid to Reform School Doctor: "I swallowed a couple of peas!"
Doctor: "Whatever! You were lucky to GET peas!"
Kid: "No, not peas, Ps - in the print shop!"

That's just about the only bit of humor in the whole film, which is so sentimental, occasionally mawkish, and over-dramatic that it's nearly painful to watch. The BD has an iffy first reel but after that it's mostly a terrific picture; the sound is exactly what you'd expect in a low-budget film of the era. The only extras on the disc are trailers for other Kino Classics films.

An okay film that's a must-see for Miss Davis, who would, I've heard, go on to better things.
"I'm glad that this question came up, because there are so many ways to answer it that one of them is bound to be right." - Robert Benchley
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Frank Hale
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The print came from Bette Davis's personal collection as I recall.

Pretty much a curio at this point.
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The Batman
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Laughing Gravy
Mar 15 2015, 07:11 AM
Bette is VERY good and very pretty in this film, with a set on her five times bigger than the set Pat O'Brien's got. She makes the movie.

An okay film that's a must-see for Miss Davis, who would, I've heard, go on to better things.

I have to agree. Bette looks great and is great in this, she makes the movie.

I've always wondered what became of her.

As a Bette Davis fan, glad to have it in the collection.


Always be yourself! Unless you can be Batman...then always be Batman!
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witneyenglish
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I watched this the other night and can't say that I was nuts about Junior Durkin. I was a little surprised by his character's casual use of the word 'nigger'.
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