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Hell's House

Released Feb 10, 1932 1h 12m Crime Drama List
Reviews 22% Audience Score 500+ Ratings
A teenager (Junior Durkin) lands in a brutal reform school for refusing to squeal on his bootlegger boss (Pat O'Brien). Read More Read Less

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Hell's House

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Audience Reviews

View All (15) audience reviews
Steve D Only of note for Davis and she is given nothing to do. Rated 1.5 out of 5 stars 02/29/24 Full Review deano w a gritty and way ahead of its time film. Kudos to all involved! Rated 5 out of 5 stars 03/06/22 Full Review jonathan m Some people think this is a horror movie but hell house is another word for prison. Sadly even Bette Davis can't save this movie and usually everything she does is pretty great.... she is one of very few actresses that can turn a sows ear into a silk purse. The backdrop for this movie is terrible everything about it is just bad it's like an early Seinfeld movie no plot just people talking. Again the backdrops are very terrible they don't feature any stores or lots of extras walking it's usually back alleys and living rooms. Rated 1 out of 5 stars 03/30/23 Full Review william k Low-budget crime drama with a simple, moralizing plot; not much challenge for Bette Davis in one of her first roles. Rated 2.5 out of 5 stars 03/31/23 Full Review Audience Member Odd little movie. Kinda starts off as a dark comedy, then starts taking itself more seriously as it goes on. Becomes pretty cheesy, but touching, towards the end. If you're watching this for Bette Davis, she's only a side character, but she's gorgeous and does well with the small role she's given. Worth watching I'd say, but expect to be sort of disoriented by the tonal shifts. It's got parts, though. And it's never boring or anything. Rated 3 out of 5 stars 02/19/23 Full Review Audience Member Hell's House (Howard Higgin, 1932) Hell's House still exists in the public consciousness solely because of Bette Davis. That's a literal statement-the movie was thought lost for years, until Davis passed away and her personal film collection was donated to the National Archives; a copy of Hell's House was discovered therein. It was Davis' sixth feature, made when she was still in her early twenties (all five of her previous features were made in 1931); it was also co-lead Pat O'Brien's sixth. But both of these big-name stars pale in comparison, in this potboiler, to the movie's real star, Junior Durkin. Durkin is very little remembered these days thanks to his untimely death in a 1935 road accident (he was only nineteen years old), but he was big business in the early thirties; his very little screen output included playing Huck Finn in both Tom Sawyer (1930) and Huckleberry Finn (1931) and Franz in Phil Rosen's 1934 adaptation of Little Men. While Hell's House is a potboiler, and Davis and O'Brien give it about the treatment it deserves, Durkin throws himself into the role in a way one rarely sees in movies like this. I mean, we're talking Edward-G-Robinson-in-Scarface here. Plot: O'Brien plays Matt Kelly, a bootlegger in the days when that was a profitable business. Durkin plays Jimmy, one of Kelly's hangers-on. After a job gone bad, Jimmy gets nabbed for a minor crime Kelly committed. After refusing to snitch, Jimmy is sent to a reform school that make the conditions on the Island of Doomed Men seem downright hospitable. While there, he befriends Shorty (the great character actor Frank Coughlin Jr. in one of his few credited roles), who has a heart condition exacerbated by the brutal treatment he receives there. Once Jimmy gets out, he enlists Kelly and Kelly's girlfriend Peggy (Davis) to help spread the word about the deplorable reform school and bring its tyrant of a headmaster (James A. Marcus, another often-uncredited character actor) to justice. Yes, it's a genre thriller, predictable and manipulative, an otherwise forgettable product of its time save the fame its two leads would go onto and the once-in-a-lifetime performance given by a child star whose ascent to fame was cruelly ended. But those things make it interesting, at least, as a piece of cinematic history; if you're a student of the early days of film, it's worth checking out on that angle. Others can take it or leave it as they will. ** Rated 2 out of 5 stars 02/11/23 Full Review Read all reviews
Hell's House

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Cast & Crew

Movie Info

Synopsis A teenager (Junior Durkin) lands in a brutal reform school for refusing to squeal on his bootlegger boss (Pat O'Brien).
Howard Higgin
Production Co
B.F. Zeidman Productions Ltd.
Crime, Drama
Original Language
Release Date (Theaters)
Feb 10, 1932, Limited
Release Date (Streaming)
Feb 1, 2016
1h 12m
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