Release Date: May 10th, 1938 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: Lewis Seiler
Written by: Crane Wilbur, Vincent Sherman
Music by: Max Steiner
Cast: The Dead End Kids, Humphrey Bogart, Gale Page, George Offerman Jr., Weldon Heyburn, Cy Kendall
Warner Bros., 86 Minutes
“Those guards you fired were valuable men. Whatta you want to replace them with? A crew of schoolteachers?” – Morgan, “Maybe you got things just a little twisted, Morgan. This is a school you’re running and not a prison. You’re dealing with kids, not hardened criminals!” – Mark Braden
I never really watched any of the Dead End Kids movies but my mum always liked them. I was aware of who they were but they just seemed like an older, unfunny Little Rascals to me.
However, while trying to clear out my queue on FilmStruck before it closed down, I was hitting all the Humphrey Bogart movies I could, so that brought me to this.
I actually liked this picture and not just because it features Bogart in a prominent role.
The Dead End Kids aren’t as kiddish and comedic as the Little Rascals or other similar groups. It’s certainly a familiar shtick but the tone of this film is mostly serious and has a much harder edge than I expected. In fact, the kids are straight up juvenile criminals and you even believe them to have killed a man, until it’s revealed by dialogue later that the guy they bludgeoned nearly to death, survived the attack.
Anyway, this sends them all to juvenile detention for two years but luckily for them, it is at the beginning of Bogart’s tenure, where he is a stand up guy that is actually trying to reform these boys and not set them up for failure and a life of crime.
The film examines the criminal justice system pretty good for its day. And really, the story is relevant today, as criminal rehabilitation is still a joke.
I liked the message of the movie and what it was trying to convey and I thought that it played out nice on screen. Bogart’s Mark Braden did everything he could to help the kids, even if his actions at the end of the film were a bit criminal too.
The kids weren’t too annoying, Bogart was superb and I thought that his leading lady, Gale Page, was also quite good and pretty lovable.
Pairs well with: other Dead End Kids movies, as well as other Bogart crime pictures.