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  • A good story idea and a good performance by Victor McLaglen make this crime feature work well, despite some weaknesses in other areas. The premise is a good one that holds many possibilities, and in general the story makes solid use of them. The production has a low-budget look to it, but most of the time this doesn't get in the way. The rest of the cast never comes up to McLaglen's level, and this is probably the main thing that keeps it from being better. It's still pretty good.

    The setup has McLaglen's character Marty, as a boy, as part of a five-member gang (which includes one girl) in Hell's Kitchen. Caught in the act of one of their crimes, Marty is the only one caught and sent to the reformatory. Then the main story starts, with the five of them now adults, and holding a reunion. As the only former convict, Marty owns a night club and gambling house, while the others include a singer, a priest, and two police officers.

    The story that follows tests the relationships among all of the old friends, and sometimes pits their new relationships against the old ones. As a result, there are some good moments of drama and suspense. McLaglen fleshes out Marty quite well, bringing out his character and the way that it has been shaped by events. If the other characters had approached his in depth, it could have been quite compelling.

    The rest of the cast is adequate, and the pacing also keeps things moving, but the one-dimensional nature of the other characters often keeps it from grabbing you as much as it could have. It's still well above average for its time and genre.
  • A group of young kids growing up in Hell's Kitchen form a lifelong bond. Because one refused to rat the others out, he goes to the reformatory. As adults they find their way to conflicting positions in society. Two cops, a priest, and a nightclub owner. The latter is mixed up in some shady dealings, mostly related to gambling. He hires a couple guys to rough a "client" up but they don't heed his limitations and kill the guy. This sets of a series of events where he is now under suspicion and brings about the death of one of his lifelong buddies. The film looks pretty good and it has that cool black and white element. Of course, honor is at the center, but that honor is not respected by the "really" bad guys. Victor McLaglan's character must confront his own miscues and face the music for his actions. It's not a bad movie, but there are absolutely no surprises and the characters actions are frequently pretty hard to swallow.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    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.
  • The film begins with a group of five kids playing around a warehouse. They accidentally light the place ablaze and run when the police arrive. However, one of the gang (Marty) is caught and he refuses to tell them who else was involved. So, he takes the rap for everyone and ends up growing into a guy who is a shady character--owning his own casino and consorting with disreputable types.

    The other four members of the gang grew into a not particularly talented lounge singer who works for Marty (Helen), a priest (Jerry) and two brothers who are firemen (Joe and Mike). Each year, they all meet for a reunion and are life-long friends.

    This friendship is tested when two thugs that work for Marty kill a man. Joe suspects it is not an accident and when he goes back to investigate, the thugs kill him as well! Now Mike takes up where Joe left off and he begins to suspect Marty's involvement. As for Marty, he did NOT want anyone killed and is stuck having to cover for the two thugs because this all began when he ordered the two to rough up a customer who refused to make good on his gambling debts. The problem is that the thugs have plans of their own and they refuse to leave town when Marty tells them to beat it.

    In the middle of this mess is Father Jerry. He cannot allow Mike to kill Marty but also cannot just ignore Marty's involvement. How all this is worked out is something you'll just have to see for yourself.

    Overall, this is a very interesting B-film with some nice twists and turns thanks to some excellent writing. As far as the acting goes, it's just fine, though Victor McLaglen in the lead is a real standout--in a tough but very sympathetic performance.
  • This one wasn't bad - I expected the film to be far worse so it came as a nice surprise. It's not a great story but kinda fun to watch in a way. It's about the kid's club "Hell's Kitchen"... where a gang of kids, 4 boys and 1 girl, become friends. The oldest boy, Marty Malone, accidentally set fire to a building and was sent to reform school. Then the story fast-forwards to their adulthood where we find them meeting every year, the year we peer into their story there is a murder that leads to another murder - Marty Malone is involved.

    All grown up: A night club owner, a singer, a priest and 2 cops. I found my favorite of the gang to be the Priest Jerry. He was the one trying to keep the others calm and reasonable.

    It's not the grandest of stories but I found this one watchable and enjoyable.

  • Devil's Party, The (1938)

    ** (out of 4)

    Okay, the story here is pretty confusing but I'll try to explain it. Four kids, growing up in Hell's Kitchen, have their lives changed when the oldest pulls a prank, which sets a warehouse on fire. He's sent to reform school but twenty years later he's out on the streets as a gambler/night club owner. Two of the other friends are cops and another is a priest. The gambler sends a couple men to rough a guy up but they eventually kill him and the two cops are put on the case. This film only runs 61-minutes but it seems the screenplay was missing around twenty minutes worth of additional footage that might have tied up various plot holes. With that said, I found myself somewhat entertained but there's really nothing going on in the film. I've heard this was an influence on Leone's Once Upon a Time in America but that connection would be very loose. Victor McLaglen stars.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    During a private party with his old childhood gang in his nightclub, Marty Malone secretly sends his two henchmen Frank Diamond & Sam to collect on a gambling debt. The thugs accidentally kill the target but have the bright idea to make the scene look like an accident. But one of Marty's friends, a policeman named Joe O'Mara, walks in on the thugs staging the scene & is promptly killed. His brother Mike, also a cop, tries to find the killers. Marty is also on the warpath, giving Diamond & Sam a day to leave town. But the thugs decide to cover their tracks by informing Mike that Marty was responsible for his brother's death. Mike is stopped from killing Marty by their mutual friend Father Jerry Donovan, who believes that there is more to the story than meets the eye. As Diamond & Sam try to play both sides of the fence, secretly tipping off Mike about Marty's involvement, they blackmail Marty to 'assist' them with a robbery where they plan to kill him.

    This film noir from 1938 is a relatively obscure entry in the genre & can be found on old DVD multipacks as filler. The film has not aged too well since its plot is pretty mundane. But what nearly kills it is the mediocre double crosses angle that is initially interesting but is overblown by several degrees. It is pretty much a standard thriller that won't look out of place on the graveyard shift of a retro film cable channel.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    The he-man woman haters club are invaded by the most unwanted of pests: an intrusive little girl who won't take no for an answer. She is the smart one, it turns out, advising them not to do something that goes all wrong. One is caught and pleads guilty without incriminating his pals, and then poof. Time goes by and that loyal little thug is the king of the old neighborhood known as Hell's kitchen, aka the title, the devil's playground.

    This is moderately enjoyable yet more of the same, Dead End on the Hudson as opposed to the East River, and it's the same story of young boys choosing different paths as the big boss us taken down. Victor McLaglen takes on the lead role, holding good natured reunions every year which includes the now older pesky girl (Beverly Roberts) who sings in a night club. Rival gangs cut in, resulting in murder, and from there, it's only a matter of time for violence to erupt and innocent parties to be caught in the middle.

    Like "Angels With Dirty Faces", one of the old gang (Paul Kelly) becomes a priest, with the other (William Gargan) remaining with McLaglen. The script is filled to the brim with clichés, and in spite of a fast pace, it often becomes convoluted. Pretty much the same film as "Angels With Dirty Faces" which had the benefit of good acting and a good script. This just ends up with the former.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    The parallels to the same year's "Angels With Dirty Faces" is unmistakable, right down to the character of Father Jerry, portrayed in this picture by Paul Kelly. I'm a bit curious about the opening scene in which the street sign marking 35th Street and 11th Avenue also states Hell's Kitchen; I wonder if that was really the case. Or if it's the case today, I'll check the next time I'm in the City.

    This was actually a fairly compelling gangster/crime drama, centering on five friends who palled together as the Death Avenue Cowboys. Growing up on different sides of the law, they collide in a series of events triggered by Marty Malone's (Victor McLaglen) insistence on collecting a gambling debt. Events quickly spiral out of control when one of the O'Mara Brothers suspects foul play in the death of a gambler connected to Malone. Mike O'Mara (William Gargan) learns the truth behind his boyhood friend's connection to brother Joe's (John Gallaudet) death, culminating in dire consequences for each of the principals. The female member of the 'Cowboys' is played by Beatrice Roberts, the adult Helen McCoy.

    I've seen Victor McLaglen in a few leading roles (1937's "Sea Devils" comes immediately to mind), and this might be his best effort as a headliner. Actually, he pretty much carries the picture, with William Gargan in a decent supporting role as policeman Mike O'Mara, attempting to get to the bottom of Joe's death. McLaglen's death scene doesn't evoke the same tear jerk response that Cagney's did in 'Angels', but it's still effective within the confines of his former childhood gang.

    For followers of the Little Rascals/Our Gang flicks, the opening scene will be reminiscent, but with a little harder edge, as Death Avenue Cowboys might suggest. The surprise in the film credits, for me at least, was seeing Wild Bill Elliott listed as gambler Brewster who welshed on his debt with Malone. The other puzzler involved the gang roster engraved in the wooden plaque at the beginning of the story; why was Marty Malone, the leader of the 'Cowboys' and the oldest member, listed last?
  • Elements of Manhattan Melodrama and Angels With Dirty Faces are to be found in The Devil's Party. Though the two cited are better films The Devil's Party can certainly hold its own.

    Back in the day four boys and the tomboy girl that tagged along with them who grew up to be Victor McLaglen, Paul Kelly, John Gallaudet, William Gargan and Beatrice Roberts commit a robbery in which a fire is started. The boy grows up to be McLaglen takes the rap for the rest and goes to reform school.

    Fast forward several years and the grownups are now the owner of a swank gambling club and the girl singer attraction in same which would be McLaglen and Roberts. Paul Kelly has become a priest who runs a settlement house and Gargan and Gallaudet who are brothers are cops with ambitions to become detectives.

    It's that ambition and the fact that McLaglen sends a pair of enforcers played by Joe Downing and Frank Jenks to collect a gambling debt and they kill the debtor sets in motion a whole string of events that pits the former pals from Hell's Kitchen against each other and it results in tragedy.

    Some nice performances all around by the principal players make this B programmer from Universal something special. The Devil's Party is a real cinema diamond in the rough waiting to be discovered.
  • A bunch of young roughnecks in the Hell's Kitchen section of Manhattan grow up to be Victor Mclaglen, Paul Kelly, William Gargan, Beatrice Roberts and a couple of others.

    Pardon me while I contemplate that sentence. Most of the others go straight, but Mclaglen goes to prison (which must be where he picked up that accent. Yeah. Everyone in Greenville and SingSing talks that way). Twenty years later and they've all grown up and mostly gone their ways, some into police work, Miss Roberts is a singer in Mclaglen's night club. They all still get together once a year. Except this year, the two of them who are cops are investigating a murder. A couple of Mclaglen's collectors got too rough with someone who wouldn't pay his gambling debts, and were sloppy getting rid of the clues, leading to one of the old pals who spotted them getting killed....

    It's from a novel by Borden Chase, and it's a fine little Universal B movie directed by Ray McCarey, Leo McCarey's kid brother and a reliable director of cheaper features. It's also got camerawork by the solid but not yet celebrated cinematographer Milton Krasna -- he wouldn't be nominated for an Oscar until 1942, and not win one until the 1950s. It's shot in beautiful, sharp black and white, showing off the beauty of industrial lines, even as the story and line readings crackle along.

    It's clearly not a great movie, but it does what a B movie is supposed to do -- tell a story with economy and beauty -- and tell it quickly.
  • Pretty good thick-ear. Four Hell's Kitchen kids keep up their friendship into adulthood even though one has become a gambler (McLaglen), one a priest (Kelly), two are cops (Gargan & Gallaudet), and the girl (Roberts) a singer. Now their lives intertwine in problematic ways as crime confronts the law.

    Looks like the plot's a variation on a familiar theme of the time (1930's)—kids growing up on opposite sides of the law only to confront one another later on. The concept creates a rich mine for conflicting emotions and loyalties. Here McLaglen has to navigate between gambling interests and loyalty to boyhood friends. The narrative sticks pretty closely to this line with its complications. The acting's okay, though emotions never build to an intensity. Instead, we're pulled along more by plot than characters. Certainly, McLaglen is capable of an intensity when so called upon, but not here. Oddly, there's not much action or violence despite the loaded title. I guess the two fires and smoke are supposed to justify the hellish expectations.

    All in all, the hour seldom rises above programmer status, but might serve old movie fans on a slow evening.