Taken from the book "Hell's Kitchen Has a Pantry" by Borden Chase (who was originally a mobster's chauffeur, so knew his way around the mean streets) it seems to have more than a passing resemblance to "Angels With Dirty Faces" which was released earlier the same year. I also wondered if the producers of "Sleepers" (1996) had seen it as well, as both had a very similar start - a group of slum kids are involved in a bigger crime while trying to steal a fruit wagon.
Only the ring leader Marty (Mickey Rentschler) is caught and goes to reform school, but the next scene has him as jovial Victor McLauglin, head of a Broadway casino and preparing to host a dinner for his old pals. Helen, the only girl member of the gang (initially played by Juanita Quigley) of course is the club's resident singer. Two of the gang have become firemen and while on a call out realise that the electric sign that has killed a known gambler (Bill Elliot in an early non Western appearance) has been deliberately severed. Joe is eager to report it to the police and leaves Mike (William Gargan) dancing with Helen while he returns to the scene of the crime. He is later found dead after falling from the roof.
Mike has now become a one man vigilante team determined to avenge his brother's death, specifically targeting Marty (who was indirectly the cause). Add Father Jerry to the plot and you have a poor man's "Angels With Dirty Faces". I thought Paul Kelly and William Gargan gave the best performances - Victor McLauglin was okay but too much the lovable lug to be convincing as an ambitious hoodlum. And Dickie Jones, Sonny Bupp, Scotty Beckett and Juanita Quigley were four of the cutest street kids ever to come out of Hell's Kitchen - only Mickey Rentschler rang true!! Where were the Dead End Kids when you needed them? They would have added authenticity.
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