Hard-hitting crime melodrama in which Huston takes on a city's corrupt administration, police department and the countless gangs shooting up the citizenry. Huston, as obsessed with righteousness as Clint Eastwood would be four decades later in DIRTY HARRY, investigates a killing and then
arrests politically-connected crime boss Hersholt and three others. The men are soon released and Huston is reassigned to the boondocks for his transgression. Now the gangsters run amuck, openly shooting anyone who opposes them. Huston prevents a bank robbery and becomes the city's hero, the
public demanding that he head the police department. He is reluctantly appointed to the position of police chief and immediately launches a massive clean-up, bending the law to corral gangsters, crooked politicians, and cops alike. In a gruesome finale, the good cops line up a vicious gang of
hoodlums and machine-gun them to death, sort of a reversal of the St. Valentine's Day Massacre. (The audiences of the day cheered wildly in theaters at the sight of this mass extermination!) In a subplot, sexy Harlow--in her first MGM film after her contract had been sold by Howard Hughes to Mayer
for $60,000--is Hersholt's gun moll. Ford, Huston's weak-willed brother, who expects quick promotion now that his sibling heads the force, is assigned to watch Harlow but falls in love with her and then takes payoffs from Hersholt's minions. He redeems himself by joining Huston and 12 other
officers in the final gunfight that sees everyone shot to pieces, including Ford and Harlow. MGM's head of production, Thalberg, wanted to compete with the successful gangster vehicles produced by Warner Bros. in the early 1930s and hired W.R. Burnett of LITTLE CAESAR fame to write the story.
Burnett called on memories of Chicago mob activities and culled some plotlines from his western novel St. Johnson, then turned it over to scriptwriter Mahin. The finished film caused the MGM moguls, used to frothy musicals, to go into shock. The brutality of the film was certainly not in keeping
with Mayer's "family films" program and he decreed that this fine film noir be sent through the B-film circuit, only to play second fiddle to "major" films. Newspaper mogul William Randolph Hearst, who owned Cosmopolitan studios, was incensed that his film was so mismanaged.
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- Rating: NR
- Review: Hard-hitting crime melodrama in which Huston takes on a city's corrupt administration, police department and the countless gangs shooting up the citizenry. Huston, as obsessed with righteousness as Clint Eastwood would be four decades later in DIRTY HARRY,… (more)