Prison Shadows
PRISON SHADOWS. 1936

Director: Robert F. Hill

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl



A boxer, Gene "Kid" Harris (Eddie Nugent), served time for manslaughter due to his right hook. Newly parolled, he could become a great fighter, but for two problems: He's become afraid to use the full power of his right hook, & his manager (Forrest Taylor), who Harris misguidedly trusts, is part of a gambling ring that rigs fights by poisoning whichever fighter they want to lose.

"Corky" the dog plays Babe who with Mary Grant (Joan Barclay) meets Harris at the prison gate. Dog & dame clearly love the guy, but fool that he is, he's carrying a torch for Claire Thomas (Lucille Lund), a glamorous femme fatale who is secretly arranging boxers' deaths for her actual lover, the crooked fight promoter. Mary ends up taking care of Harris's dog because Claire hates dogs, which alone should've been reason enough for Harris to stop mooning for the wrong gal.

Mary'd like him to "get out of the fight racket," but it's all he knows. Kid Harris's manager begins promoting him as Killer Harris, which Harris deplores because he's so ashamed to have killed a man. During his first fight, though he's frightened of using his mighty hook, his opponent nevertheless tires & is easily knocked out, never to awaken. His moniker Killer is now even more inescapable, & the police aren't buying the story that Harris was pulling his punches.

Harris as played by Nugent is too much a boy scout to be credible. He has to be a total moron to end up in this fix he is in, & it's hard to embrace as hero a guy that simpleminded. Nugent usually played the college type, & as an anti-hero ex-con boxer he still seems like a college boy. The character of Mary is much more likeable, & even of the dog Babe is more interesting than most of the cast.

The one shocking moment is when Babe gets hold of the towel that had the poison on it, & is whisked away to a veterinarian who can't save the dog. Harris finally wises up & goes in search of the source of the poison (a swiftly passing reference to Claire's use of Chinese medicines is the only suggestion that the poison used was extract of monkshood).

When Harris realizes he's next on the list to be poisoned, with millions being bet on his opponent to win, he arranges a trap for the criminals involving his risking his life in the ring.

The plot's main twist is that even Sweeney, the boxer Harris killed with his right hook, was part of the complicated machinations of the murderous fight manager. The loss of three years of Harris's life, & of at least three men's lives, & the death of Babe, are hard things to have in a story that trumps up a happy ending, but they attempt it anyway. "Huge begging ring uncovered" scream the headlines, & Harris having the manslaughter charge removed from his record is now freed of his parole restrictions can marry Mary.

If the film had been made a couple years later it would no doubt have been darker & more cynical, a true film noir. It has the right script to be a film noir, but nont the atmospheric lighting or downbeat performances. But despite a lot of sinister content in the script, the directing & acting have too light a touch. As a boxing movie it is perhaps more appealing than as a film noir.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl



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