For Reel

Jailbreak (1936)
March 31, 2016, 5:08 pm
Filed under: Reviews

Director: Nick Grinde
3 Stars
JailbreakThis effective Warner Brothers programmer shows the studio at its grittiest, involving prison riots and a series of murders that come to be investigated by the reliable Barton MacLane. Although MacLane was often cast in such roles, he is actually wrought as fairly incompetent—a tough detective who says all the right things but really gets nothing done. Actually, it is the suave news reporter played by Craig Reynolds that cracks the case, and the relationship that develops between Reynolds and MacLane is an adversarial one that turns into mutual begrudging respect. Reynolds, though largely forgotten today, shows a compelling charm in these B-pictures from the mid-30s, and the sourpuss MacLane is always a welcome sight. If the picture plays like an average murder mystery of the period, it is elevated by the prison setting, including memorable sets such as the prison laundry room that resembles something out of Metropolis. Despite running only an hour in length, the murder that launches the plot into action doesn’t happen until about the halfway mark. Regardless, each half of the film displays the remarkably efficient storytelling that one came to expect out of Warner Brothers, and the high contrast cinematography by Arthur L. Todd makes it look more compelling than the average programmer.

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