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Tricia's retro film review: Hell's House

Hell's House on DVD


Hell’s House is the 1932 pre-code film. Jimmy is suddenly orphaned when his mom is killed in a hit and run accident. He moves in with his aunt and uncle, only to get a job with Mr. Kelly when his uncle loses his job. Mr. Kelly is actually a bootlegger and Jimmy is sent to juvenile hall after he gets caught working for him. He is sent to reform school, which turns out to be corrupt. Jimmy befriends Shorty, who has a heart condition. When Shorty falls ill, Jimmy escapes the school to find help. Will he save his friend in time?

This film is a pretty good social problem picture, even if it does take a while to get there. Ironically, the gangster Kelly feels more guilt at letting Jimmy go up the river than the reform school wardens ever do about applying unnecessary punishment. The muckraking reporter, Frank, is pretty smart, as he knows the school will try to hide their crimes and even calls them out on it. While Shorty dies, the ending manages to pull off a bittersweet tone as justice has finally been served so Shorty can rest in peace. Honolulu film fans should watch this movie.

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