- Acting of Lead Performers
- Acting of Supporting Cast
- Music Score
- Title Sequence
- Historical Importance
- Would You Recommend?
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3rd of 9 Bette Davis Movies in 1932
"Hell's House" gets bad press & reviews for a variety of reasons that I can't agree with. Bette Davis acts out the role of Peggy Gardner, whose boyfriend, Jimmy (Junior Durkin) is used by Kelly (Pat O'Brien) in an illegal scheme. Then, when Jimmy gets busted & jailed, Kelly steals his girlfriend. After Jimmy finds that out, he escapes and flees to Kelly and Peggy's place. Kelly won't help but Peggy calls the press. This forces Kelly to confess to the crime. I feel the reason that this movie gets bad press is because Pat O'Brien plays the criminal and that's not the priest role he became best know for acting out. Davis' role is just right for her and she acts it out quite well. In spite of what's been written in the past, this movie is definitely worth watching and owning.
Juvenile Prison Reform
I've always like Pat O'Brien as a priest. I guess he got good at playing one since he was cast as a priest so often. This time he's a bootlegger who doesn't mind in the least exploiting a youth to run his liquor to customers. Plus, Kelly (O'Brien) likes the girlfriend, Peggy (Davis) of Jimmy (the youth). The plot's about the adult who's responsible for exploiting the youth to do his dirty work, allowing the boy to take that tall and go to as prison reformatory that's abusive to youths. Yes, it's old. But it's also right on point message wise for today. Davis plays a pivotal role as the girlfriend of both main male characters.
Pat O'Brien and Bette Davis
Pat O'Brien became typecast as an Irish Catholic priest because he played them so often and was great at it, too. Twenty three year old Bette Davis didn't ever become attached with a character type. Among the typical roles she played, throughout her legendary career, were ones that challenged society's injustices. Her character, Peggy, does so in "Hell's House." Her younger brother's made to take the fall for a crime he'd been set up to do. By Peggy standing by her brother, abuses of youths by the penal system are exposed. This film's story, script, performances and social value are under-rated.
Outing Juvenile Prison System Abuse
One of the great attributes of the films Bette Davis led is their socially valuable messages. "Hell's House" challenges the public to experience the need for juvenile prison reform. It also reveals how bad guys manipulate the most vulnerable and least privileged youths. Since adults today chose not to prioritize these problems, a film that does makes folks squirm on their laurels. Both Bette Davis and Pat O'Brien risk their careers to co-star in a brilliant film whose theme is one that the public still doesn't want to deal with. A morals film and a half.