Search - Hell's House on DVD

Hell's House
Hell's House
Actors: Bette Davis, Pat O'Brien, Junior Durkin, Frank Coghlan Jr., Emma Dunn
Director: Howard Higgin
Genres: Drama, Mystery & Suspense
NR     2003     1hr 12min


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Movie Details

Actors: Bette Davis, Pat O'Brien, Junior Durkin, Frank Coghlan Jr., Emma Dunn
Director: Howard Higgin
Creators: Allen G. Siegler, Howard Higgin, Edward Schroeder, B.F. Zeidman, B. Harrison Orkow, Paul Gangelin
Genres: Drama, Mystery & Suspense
Sub-Genres: Classics, Mystery & Suspense
Studio: Alpha Video
Format: DVD - Black and White
DVD Release Date: 10/07/2003
Original Release Date: 01/30/1932
Theatrical Release Date: 01/30/1932
Release Year: 2003
Run Time: 1hr 12min
Screens: Black and White
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 0
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English
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Movie Reviews

Early Bette Davis melodrama
Bomojaz | South Central PA, USA | 06/03/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Part reform movie and part "B" picture melodrama, Junior Durkin plays a kid who idolizes bootlegger Pat O'Brien; when O'Brien hires him as a go-fer, Durkin is in his glory. Little does he realize that O'Brien has eyes for his girlfriend, Bette Davis. When the bootlegger's joint gets raided and Durkin is arrested, he refuses to rat out O'Brien and the kid is sent to reform school for three years. Here the boy is cruelly mistreated; when another boy at the school dies, a newspaper threatens to expose what's going on (that's the reform angle). When Durkin finds out from his mother that O'Brien and Davis are a number, he escapes and pays a visit to Davis. She feeds him the line that she was only doing it to get O'Brien to spring him. Then when the cops show up on Durkin's tail, O'Brien confesses. It's a pretty unbelievable ending, and the picture is not very memorable. It's interesting to see Davis this early in her career, though, and some of her scenes with O'Brien are decent, if not great."
1932 Bette Davis & Pat O'Brien Expose Prison Abuses
dr. m~d | USA | 04/02/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

"There is no movie with Bette Davis in it that I won't rate excellent. Every character she has played, she did as close to perfect as an actor could.

"Hell House," is the kind of film that Davis went on strike against Warner Bros. to fight for better scripts. However, "Hell's House," is a good & socially on time story. So, even she considered this script & role inferior...then, today, I have to view it as a movie that reveals a contemporary social concern in its contexts. I have to keep my critique in context historically (read on for why). Therefore, I probably have a different view of it than did Davis herself and my peer reviewers here.

"Hell's House" is produced by Capital Films: a low-budget company that Warner Bros. could have run circles around to make a much better film. Davis & O'Brien were not yet contract actors for Warner Bros..

To the plot & characters: The protagonist is an adolescent, Jimmy (Junior Dirkin). I can recall Dirkin's performance being like one of Mark Twain's classic protagonists: Huckleberry Finn, in Paramount's (1930) "Tom Sawyer," & (1931) "Huckleberry Finn," (both featuring Jackie Coogan as Tom).

Like every other motion picture Bette Davis graced, in "Hell's House," she is true to form: though her character, Peggy Gardner, is a supporting role, Gardner is the 1 who exposes the abusiveness of the juvenile reform prison & is responsible for gaining the freedom a friend of Jimmy's who's dying. In short, 23yo Davis manages to rescue and steal the show even in a low-budget film's supporting role! Davis brings a very serious social issue out in the open to the public in 1932, no less: the need for prison reform.

Pat O'Brien (Matt Kelly) is the bootlegging bad guy that Jimmy went to prison covering-up for. O'Brien, who usually played an Irish good guy cop, priest, soldier or sweetheart, was 34yo when the film was released & had only been in movies for 2 years; whereas, Davis was only 23yo & had been in movies for only a year. Hollywood was just coming into movies with sound & was literally being created by these daring actors.

It's interesting to have hindsight & historical film documentation of how the 2 adult supporting actors (Davis & O'Brien) switched screen images in their lengthy acting careers: O'Brien became (mostly) the softer-spoken, likeable fellow & Davis, well, what I can say?, became one heck of a handful; feisty, tradition-breaking, fiercely independent, shrewd & mouthy. Davis deliberately played characters that hardly anybody would dare to cross without there being rather unpleasant consequences--even murder (many times). It's extra interesting to consider how Davis burst down the doors of women's gender role stereotypes (on film & off) by being anyone but June Cleaver!

I don't underrate "Hell's House," because both Davis & O'Brien were Hollywood newbies who not only brought the audiences into the box offices while being grossly under paid; but, also revealed an all too common social problem in the 1930' that is still plaguing Western societies today: how we mistreat juvenile offenders by judging them as if they were adults & not holding the adults around them more responsible."
Bette Davis, bootlegging, and a bunch of delinquents
Joseph P. Menta, Jr. | Philadelphia, PA USA | 06/12/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)

"Undistinguished, yet a perfectly watchable depression/prohibition-era melodrama set mostly in a workhouse for delinquent kids. For those Bette Davis fans out there, yes, Bette Davis is in this movie, but it by no means a "Bette Davis movie". Ms. Davis plays the girlfriend of a bootlegger, but doesn't get to do much besides show that she has the conscience her boyfriend lacks (until the unlikely conclusion where the bootlegger all of a sudden feels guilt for those he ground under his boots on the way up). She's also not onscreen much, with most of the running time being devoted to a misguided kid trying to make his way in the workhouse after he refuses to dime out his bottlegger boss.

All in all, this churned-out, second-tier melodrama is a fairly painless stopover for Bette Davis completists. The movie is only 72 minutes long, the print isn't bad (though it's not sharp and restored, by any means), and there's a nice gallery of other vintage-era DVD offerings to scroll through, which mostly feature original movie poster art on the DVD boxes pictured."