Hoodlum chieftain Bickford, expanding his protection-racket extortion empire, attempts to exact an "insurance" payment from a little tailor-presser who has lovingly labored over the garments of his good friends, the boys from a nearby high school. When the tailor refuses to pay the requisite "premium," the gangster murders him as a lesson for other tailors...read more
Hoodlum chieftain Bickford, expanding his protection-racket extortion empire, attempts to exact an "insurance" payment from a little tailor-presser who has lovingly labored over the garments of his good friends, the boys from a nearby high school. When the tailor refuses to pay the
requisite "premium," the gangster murders him as a lesson for other tailors who might exhibit similar resistance. In the same city, local councilmen have ordained "Boys' Week," and a day has been set aside for the city's youngsters to temporarily hold the reins of government. In their capacities
as city officials for the day, working alongside their elected and appointed adult counterparts, the boys bear witness to the ease with which mobster Bickford--who has high-placed associates--evades just punishment for the murder of the tailor-presser. Banding together, the youths decide that
civic duty requires that they themselves must bring the hoodlum to the bar of justice. They institute a quest for clues and evidence solid enough to convict the crime lord unequivocally. When the boys approach success, Bickford has one of them shot and killed. Pressing a girl friend, Allen, into
service, the vengeful lads use her to assist them in the thug's abduction. They take the snarling criminal to an abandoned brickyard, where they convene a kangaroo court, each of the youths reprising his city-government role. When sullen Bickford refuses their importunities that he confess to his
crimes, the lads third-degree him, finally lowering the criminal on a rope into a brickyard pit filled with rats (Bickford's nightmarish nemesis). As the broken-willed, terrified gangster shouts out the litany of his many crimes, his hoodlum associates discover his whereabouts and prepare to take
the place by force of arms. As they begin their attack, police--alerted by Allen--storm the brickyard and capture the entire gang. A broken man, Bickford is brought to justice. Two of the grateful boys, both enamored of Allen, join her in the car she has stolen in order to bring the police to the
scene. At the film's ironic conclusion, the three comrades are arrested by police for grand theft, auto. Director DeMille's only gangster-genre talking picture followed hard on the heels of his Biblical epic THE SIGN OF THE CROSS. The theme itself was not entirely novel to the great man and his
associates, however; his very first part-talkie, THE GODLESS GIRL (1929), carried some very similar situations. (The youth-in-prison picture similarly pitted young people against evildoing adults.) DeMille may have been influenced somewhat by Fritz Lang's film M, released two years previously; the
kangaroo-court trial in the brickyard bears remarkable resemblances to Lang's council of cutthroats sitting in judgment on Peter Lorre's child-murderer. DeMille habitually raced out such small quickies as THIS DAY AND AGE shortly after completing one of his many major efforts.
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