Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Paroled - to Die Review

Paroled - to Die (1938)

Dir. Sam Newfield
Starring: Bob Steele, Karl Hackett, Budd Buster, Frank Ball

After being framed for a bank robbery, Doug Redfern (Steele) sets out to clear his name and find out who framed him.

The film has a boring look to it. Every scene begins with a wide shot, then cuts to a medium shot where characters walk into frame, deliver their lines, and walk off screen. I think that the only close up shot in the film is a cut to a letter that Joan sends Doug. While I am not expecting a film from the thirties to be full of fast cuts like a modern day film, the lack of close ups when the actors are reciting dialogue gives the film a dull, cheap look. This is a problem that plagues the entire film. I wasn’t really thrilled by the chase/fight on the wagon at the end of the film, but had it been shot and edited better it probably would have been more fun to watch, but as it is it is just a bunch of dull wide shots of stunt men punching each other on

Bob Steele is serviceable as the hero Doug Redfern, but he really lacks the charisma that this films needs as a lead. This isn’t the film that I would recommend to anyone that wanted a good representation of him as an actor. Other than the dance scene with Joan at the beginning of the film he comes across as bland at times. He does have good on screen chemistry with Kathleen Eliot, who plays his love interest Joan (which is why the scene at the dance works). Karl Hackett plays the villain Harvey Meline, and he’s alright in the role, but he’s pretty much stuck on the sidelines being petty. Horace Murphy is also good at what he is asked to do in the film. But part of that involves him delivering an exposition dump near the end of the film to try and make sense of the plot.

I’ll say this about the movie: The plot doesn't make a too much sense until the end. At the beginning Harvey is planning on having some henchmen rob his own bank, and at first it doesn’t really make sense as to why he is doing other than he likes Joan, who has no interest in him cause she is in love with Doug. Using a handkerchief that Doug dropped, Harvey frames Doug for a bank robbery, and Doug gets sentenced to jail for twenty years. He gets released the day arrives in jail and teams up with Lucky to find out who is behind the bank robbery and why. SPOILERS AHEAD FOR A 77 YEAR OLD MOVIE: Then at the end Lucky starts telling everyone how Harvey planned to rob his own bank to cover up him taking money to build an oil well. He framed Doug, the governor paroled Doug, and then Lucky and Doug worked to catch Harvey. It feels like the movie was written in a fast burst and then they added a bunch of dialogue to make it work rather than reshoot scenes to make the plot work better (most likely due to budgetary reasons).  

 But at one point Harvey does say that Doug has been "Paroled to Die", which means that it would be exciting for Peter Griffin:

 This movie is not good, but it isn’t bad. It’s mediocre and a good reason why most people write off most of the B westers of the thirties. I really wouldn’t recommend this to anyone unless they were just trying to watch every Bob Steele movie or to see why a lot of people don’t like the cheapie B westerns from this era, but then I would probably try to convince them to watch one of the better B westerns instead. At least it’s a short movie, and due to its public domain status it’s easily available to view for cheap (it’s free on YouTube and it is also available in many cheap multi movie collections.

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