Hellgate (1952)

Approved   |    |  Western


Hellgate (1952) Poster

A man is framed and sent to toughest prison in the territory.


6.5/10
327

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23 April 2009 | dougdoepke
Prison, Southwestern Style
Surprisingly well-produced and offbeat Western from budget-minded Lippert Productions. Note how well stocked with convicts the prison camp is, along with the realistic army tents for the staff. Hard to believe this "Devil's Island" is just a few miles from downtown LA in often-used Bronson Canyon. Lippert does a really convincing job recreating a desert penal colony in the middle of a big city. The prologue from Oliver Wendell Holmes suggests the story is based on fact, though that's not stated. Hayden plays a veterinarian wrongly convicted of guerrilla activity following the Civil War. At the prison camp he has to survive a guerrilla-hating commandant (Ward Bond), a cruel guard (the great Robert Wilke), and scheming fellow prisoners like James Arness. (The Hayden-Arness fistfight features two of the physically biggest men in Hollywood.)

The camp is a real hellhole, with underground cells (well-done), a half buried punishment coffin called "the oven", and a posse of Pima Indians for those escaping on foot. And get a load of that trap door leading underground, as if the Devil himself were on the other side. I like the way armed guards are posted on the canyon rim and silhouetted against the sky— another nice touch. There's plenty of intrigue and action, although the typhus outbreak comes as something of an anti-climax following the jailbreak. Hayden underplays throughout, as does Arness. It's really Bond and Wilke who make the strongest impression. Then too, pretty Joan Leslie has her name on the marquee, but only appears for about 5 minutes as Hayden's long-suffering wife. Anyway, it's an offbeat and entertaining 90 minutes that'll make you think twice about helping suspicious-looking strangers,

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