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Review of the Pre-Code crime film "The Doorway to Hell"

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The Doorway to Hell


"The Doorway to Hell," is a Pre-Code gangster flick that was directed in 1930. Archie Mayo had directed the movie and Lew Ayres, Dorothy Matthews, and James Cagney, which was his second film. The movie is about a gangster named Louis Ricarno who gets big, decides to leave the racket but is back into it after a terrible accident. By the way this is another film with that Napoleon complex.

This movie has everything, gangsters, guns (even in violin cases), a young James Cagney, and a hard-nose police officer. The melodrama in this movie is raw. For a pretty early gangster talkie this movie is done quite well. Ayres holds his own as the boss and Cangey is great as his right hand man. Matthews, in the film is Doris, Ricarno's love though she doesn't really like him as much and it's more because of his money. Her eyes stray to another close to him.

"The Doorway to Hell," seemed to be that gangster film that gets forgotten in the mix of the others. It is highly entertaining and part of the grandfather of the genre. It was made two years before "Scarface," and one year before, "Little Caesar."

The ending will probably not make many happy in this day and age but it works for the film. It's that ending that makes you use your own imagination. It does give you a pretty good idea on what is going to happen to Ricarno.

Some may not agree but the acting was great and that's why it gets four stars. The characters had great development going on there. Ayres was the lead but the young Cageny steals the show too. Diehard classic gangster films should watch it once or twice.


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