from GETZVILLE, NY
Reviewed on 5/14/2012...
1941 / B & W / 74 minutes
Tagline: Talent School Racket Exposed!
Gangster King Peterson operates a fake “school of performing arts” to lure innocent girls with big dreams of making it in showbiz. The fact that many of the girls end up missing or dead attracts the attention of the young assistant DA and his girl-reporter girlfriend. The talent school, funded by the girl-reporter’s father, of all people, is in fact a front for a ring that enslaves girls into the ugly world of human trafficking.
Granted, the movie merely hints at white slavery, so its message to naïve youth to be careful in a world of sharks is clear only to sophisticated people. Another problem is that the first 35 minutes are very slow, though a couple of scenes with the worried grandmother of a missing girl are surprisingly affecting because they feel so authentic and sad. The casting of the unsophisticated girls rings true: their faces are babyish and one wears the symbol of dewy-eyed innocence, saddle shoes. When they get into car with the procuress, the viewer wants to yell out, “Oh, don’t get in that car with those evil people.”
Feeling scared for characters is chilling in spots, with more convincing acting and production values than exploitation movies of the era. Veteran actor H. B. Warner plays a Carlyle-quoting police captain nearing retirement. With poise and dignity, he knows how to wear a suit and project screen presence. Sarah Padden, as the grandmother, brings her role to life. Astrid Allwyn is beautiful and her acting is coy and cute, though she will do annoying things with the pitch of her voice.
The comic relief is really comical. At the talent school, snickering acro-dancers, twins in fact, toss each other around. At a police line-up the dancers are told to look left and then right, which only about half of them comprehend, thus disabusing me of the idea that dancers got more of a bead on things than models. The things we learn from old movies....