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29 June 2011 @ 03:24 am
Bette Davis Marathon 2011: Movie #3--Hell's House (1932) PART ONE  
It's been a while - I sort of lost my will midway through recapping this little delight. YOU WILL UNDERSTAND WHY. However, with some encouragement, I shall carry on. Carry on. As if nothing really matters. Except Bette Davis movies.

Also, because Livejournal hates me, it has decided that this is too much for one post. So two posts it will be. BECAUSE IT JUST NEEDED TO BE THAT MUCH MORE OF A HASSLE. Thanks, Hell's House. Thanks so much.

I'm gradually coming to the conclusion that Way Back Home and The Menace don't even exist. Maybe we're all better off not having seen them. I don't know. We'd probably all be better off if we never saw Hell's House either, but since it's inexplicably readily available (isn't the public domain fun?) we - the few, the proud, the hardcore Bette Davis fans - can suffer together. My copy of Hell's House is on this weird-ass sketchy DVD with the Vivien Leigh version of Anna Karenina. The case alleges some sort of thematic tie-in between the two films, but other than the lead actresses having both played iconic bitchy Southern belles, I'm not really seeing the connection. Whatever.

Anyway, for your viewing pleasure: http://www.archive.org/details/hells_house

Um, background? This is the last movie Bette made before George Arliss, in all his zombified glory, spotted her and asked her to play his much younger, not-undead love interest in The Man Who Played God. The rest... is history. This... is a pretty bad movie. Directed by Howard Higgin (pooooooor Howard Higgin... /My Fair Lady) and written by Higgin (The Racketeer), Paul Gangelin (Cover Girl, When Husbands Flirt) and B. Harrison Orkow (The Gorilla and the alarmingly named Boy Slaves), this hot mess is ostensibly telling us of the horrors of juvenile crime and cruel and unusual punishment BUT WE JUST DON'T CARE BECAUSE IT'S SO DULL AND THERE IS NOT NEARLY ENOUGH DAVIS. And it was released on 30 January 1932. That's really all you need to know.

The first thing we see does not bode well.

I don't think it's possible for this title card to be less centred. Also, I'm assuming this was added for a later theatrical run (WHY WOULD YOU RERELEASE THIS? WHY?), since it would be very difficult to go back to the days of PROHIBITION during PROHIBITION. 'So you know that thing that's happening RIGHT NOW? Do you remember it?' If this isn't a rerelease, then the makers of this film do NOT have very high expectations of the people who are going to go see it. Just sayin'. This title card stays on screen for approximately three years. People read very slowly back in the days of after/during Prohibition, apparently.

HOLY SHIT. WE ARE ABOVE THE TITLE. I REPEAT, ABOVE THE TITLE. Although this film really does look like it stars Bette Pat and Davis O'Brien. BUT SHE'S ABOVE THE TITLE SO IT'S ALL GOOD. I feel at this point that I should note that this film's main musical theme is "demented circus waltz." I have only been listening to the score for about a minute and it's already annoying me. Not a good sign.

This juvenile detention centre is guarded by giants.

TOP BILLING. That's right, bitches. In the veritable galaxy of stars that is the cast of Hell's House, one shines far brighter than the rest.

Our story begins at a tumbledown shack in an undisclosed location. We meet this strapping-ish young man-boy (Junior Durkin, Huckleberry Finn) as he chops wood, coming alarmingly close to decapitating an innocent chicken.

I have never seen a chicken so calm. Especially not when there's a wildly swinging ax in the vicinity. This chicken has nerves of steel.

Our whiney-voiced hero in all his splendour. Seriously, this kid has THE most nasal little drone of a voice in the history of the universe. 'Whaddaya want, Moooom?' This is our main character, ladies and gentlemen. This is who we're going to have to deal with for the ENTIRE REST OF THE MOVIE. Heaven help us. Oh, and his name is, generically enough, Jimmy. His mother is talking to him from off-screen and it sounds like her voice is emanating from beyond the grave - foreshadowing or terrible sound recording? You be the jury. Either way, the result is that you can only pick up about every fourth word of what she's saying. Something about laundry. It results in him throwing down his ax with a cheerful 'Oh, all right, mom' and heading for the washing line, at any rate.

Here's mother (Mary Alden, Intolerance, The Birth of a Nation and, apparently, a bit part in our beloved The Bad Sister), with her helmet-like hair. Unfortunately, as we shall soon learn, the helmet-hair has no special protective abilities. Because Jimmy's kind of a dick, he's hiding behind the laundry line and promptly scares the shit out of his mother by issuing a truly demonic-sounding 'BOOOOOO!'. He's going to feel really good about that in the extremely near future.

Ah, but she has taken this in the spirit of fun in which it was intended. That's a small smile in the second cap. I know it looks like vague nausea, but trust me. It's a small smile. More of a smile than Nasal Boy deserves, anyway.

Oh Christ. Look at that face. 'Didn't sceeeaaaare ya, did I, Moooooooom?' KILL HIM. KILL HIM NOW. HAVE MERCY ON US, MOVIE. His mother's response to all this: 'Full of tricks just like your father was, ain't ya?' Ummmmmm... 'kay. I'm going to try not to read weird subtext into that. Clearly, I've already failed. Jimmy really helps out by nodding while grinning creepily and saying 'Yeaaaaaaaah!' JESUS GOD. Move forward already, plot! Oh god, and there's chasing and spanking and arrrrrgh my mind. (Do you see why this has taken me over a year? Do you see?) I know this is supposed to be all whimsical and shit and we're supposed to feel really bad when this bizarre-ass idyll is shattered in about a minute, but... In summary:

Thank you, movie, but no. Just no. 'Well, Mom, you haven't lost your punch, have you?' JUST STOP IT, MOVIE. JUST STOP IT.

I've said it before and I'll doubtless say it again: Oh Christ. Look at that face. So Mom goes merrily off to deliver laundry or whatever she was doing before god-awful shenanigans ensued and Jimmy returns to droning his lines nasally. But then: A squeal of brakes! A woman's scream!

Now hang the fuck on a moment. What kind of hit-and-run driver stops, gets out of the (weird as hell) car, goes over (to make sure that she's dead?) and THEN flees the scene? This is not computing for me. I love this next screencap almost more than words.

Edvard Munch, eat your heart out. 'MOOOOOOOOOOOOOM!' He runs over to her lifeless body and has SO much time to either capture the hit-wait-THEN-run driver or make note of his licence plate, but, because he's a useless dolt, he does neither. 'Mom! Mom! It's me, Jimmy!' he whines, while causing further damage to her spinal cord by jerking her around like a rag doll. Yeah, THAT'S gonna make her want to come back.

An American Tragedy. This whole 'Mom! Mom!' thing goes on for what feels like an eternity. My sympathy for Jimmy is dissipating SO FAST you have no idea. YOUR MOTHER IS DEAD. SHUT THE HELL UP. JUST MEET BETTE DAVIS ALREADY. CHRIST.

So Jimmy somehow ends up in the Big Bad City. How? We don't know, and frankly, I'm glad they didn't tell us, because I get the feeling it would involve a lot more nasal droning and Jimmy being totally inept and insipid. According to a scrap of paper he has in his jacket, he has come to see 'Mr. and Mrs. Henry Clark' at 1433 Carman Street. Oh goodie. Of course, goddamn Jimmy has no idea which apartment the Clarks live in, because, like the licence plate numbers of people who have just killed his mother, some things just aren't important enough to write down. So he's standing in the corridor like a complete moron going 'Eenie meenie...' OH FOR GOD'S SAKE. THIS CAN'T BE OUR HERO. As if this method of decision-making weren't cringe-worthy enough already, the rhyme differs from the version familiar to us today in one way that is pretty difficult to ignore. HINT: Jimmy doesn't say 'tiger', but another word ending in '-ger'. Yeah. Bringing an end to our musings about the acceptability of racist language in films of the 1930s, an old man (Charley Grapewin, Uncle Henry from The Wizard of Oz) walks by and, as he's about to go into his apartment, says, 'Hello, son. What are you looking for?' Don't engage with him, sir. You will regret it for the rest of your life.

He, despite all the advice I am shouting at the screen, tells Jimmy that, well, his name is Clark. YOU FOOL! NOW YOU'RE STUCK WITH HIM! Jimmy responds by saying, 'Are you Uncle Henry?' Yes, yes, he is. And in far better movies than this, to boot. Uncle Henry is distressed to learn of his sister/sister-in-law's death, especially through the awkward 'How's your mother?' 'She's... dead' device, and is probably even more upset that he's been landed with the care and keeping of Jimmy. Honestly, I don't blame him. Far more interestingly - at least as far as my shallow film nerd self is concerned - is that his wife, played by Emma Dunn (aka Mrs. Madison in The Bad Sister), is named Emma. SO IT'S UNCLE HENRY AND AUNTIE EM. OH. MY. GOD. HOLY. SHIT. My mind has been blown. Replace Jimmy with Judy Garland and we are good to go. Here's our little Clark family unit:

Aren't they just delightful? And now we meet their boarder, Matt Kelly (Pat O'Brien, who we will see much more of in future BDM projects).

He is so roguish it is almost physically painful.

This is the beginning of a beautiful friendship. And by friendship, I mean a roguish wannabe gangster relentlessly taking advantage of a stupid, naïve young yokel. So, you know, great. Kelly talks a lot, and about 98% of that talk is total nonsense (like, not only is it bullshit, it just flat-out doesn't make any damn sense), and most of that is desperately trying to make himself look cool and important. Essentially, this is the only character trait he actually possesses, but boy do they hammer it home. He is SUCH a douche. And Jimmy, hopeless little cretin that he is, hasn't got a goddamn clue. If it weren't so irritating, it would be a little sad. By the way, this is some serious PLOT POINT PREP. Now that all this is established, it's finally - FINALLY - time for some Davis.

She's been bleached blonde since last we saw her, and she's waiting for Kelly on a street corner, reading a newspaper, looking hella annoyed. As you do.

If that's not the face of exasperation, I don't know what is. I'd advise Kelly to get his ass down there STAT. Girlfriend is pissed right off. He comes up to her all glib and she responds to him with a terse 'I'VE BEEN WAITING FOR YOU FOR OVER AN HOUR.' Thank you so much for finally showing up and injecting some sorely-needed fabulous into this movie, Bette Davis. He rattles off some BS about having been at an unavoidable conference and she expresses (well-founded) doubts about marrying him. To distract her from talking herself out of their relationship, Kelly, doofus that he is, pretends he knows the editor of the Morning Times, Frank Gebhardt, who happens to be getting out of his car nearby. Why is this his conflict resolution strategy again? Because he thinks that his powerful connections will outweigh all the other stupid stuff he does on a regular basis in the eyes of La Davis? Who knows.

She doesn't look terribly impressed. In fact, she is the embodiment of scepticism.

Gebhardt - played by Morgan Wallace (Orphans of the Storm, Grand Hotel) - is confused as all get-out. Understandably. Since the full extent of the interaction between Kelly and his old chum 'Frank' was the former hollering familiarities and the latter completely ignoring him, Bette (or 'Peggy Gardner' as she is known in the wonderful world of Hell's House - although I don't think anyone's actually called her by name yet) is pretty unfazed by her beau's alleged connections with the heights of the newspaper industry. Kelly, seeing this, starts yammering as fast as he can yammer, nearly to the point of being totally incomprehensible, and physically drags her off to investigate some delightful new spaghetti joint. Yum. Way to save your relationship through nonsense and Italian food, Kelly.

Meanwhile, back at the humble Clark residence, Jimmy overhears a late night conversation between his aunt and uncle, as is always the device in films when children need to find out something that the adults in charge of them don't want them to know. He learns that, although they are, for some reason, delighted to have him as their surrogate son, the Clarks are in dire financial straits, for Uncle Henry has, yet again, lost his job. That's how things roll during the Great Depression. Goddamn Jimmy (who is possibly outstripping goddamn Hedrick as my least favourite juvenile performer in a pre-Warners Bette Davis film) tries desperately - and, of course, fails utterly - to emote while wearing a nightgown that looks like a cassock.

THAT'S RIGHT, JIMMY. YOU'RE A BURDEN. Auntie Em responds stoically, if wearily, to this latest calamity, and Uncle Henry dashes off on a quest for want ads. Maybe they'll find that farm in Kansas they've always dreamed of owning... And now, abruptly, we cut to the family gathered around Kelly, completely fascinated by his nigh-on magical ability to make a glass resonate using a fork. I wish I were making this up, but I'm not.

Kelly claims this truly remarkable talent is the result of him 'leaking' music; he's 'so full of it, [he] leaks'. Well, he hit the nail on the head with the 'full of it' part, anyway. Ugh. Just ugh. Please hurry back, Peggy. She may not have a character beyond 'sassy moll-ish-type-gal', but at least she's competent and watchable. Oh, and now he's saying he knows Rudy Vallee. AGH! It's like Kelly and Jimmy are having some sort of contest to see who can send me on a spiralling descent into madness fastest. Anyway, Jimmy drones that he has something he'd like to ask 'Mr. Kelly' and Kelly graciously invites the young lad to stroll down the avenue with him, because, obviously, a big-shot like him has important places to be. This next screenshot looks like it could be Jimmy's last known photo. Oh, how I wish it were.

After reemphasising for the umpteenth time that Kelly pretends he knows famous people (he claims some random burly guy is Red Grange, the famous football player, and that a cop on the beat is the police commissioner), Jimmy still doesn't manage to voice his request when who do you suppose they run smack into but - PEGGY! Oh thank god. However, Kelly decides to take this opportunity to combine his and Jimmy's powers of irritation into one potent cocktail of exasperation. What ensues is a gag about a fortune teller predicting their meeting with a fair damsel (*cough*Peggy*cough*) so asinine and grating that I cannot bring myself to relate it in full. I mean, it contains the phrase, 'And he said a lot of things would happen. Remember?' Urrrrgh. I feel like my IQ is dropping just watching this. What you need to know is that it creates the sort of atmosphere that makes stupid, stupid, STUPID Jimmy (who is so dense that he can barely keep up with a fallacy this simple) believe that he and his sainted Mr. Kelly are real chums -

- and that it makes Peggy crinkle up her nose, although, for reasons that remain unknown, she fails to kick these two bozos to the curb.

You can do so much better, honey. Really. Run for the hills. Also, aside from this reaction shot, during the weaving of their elaborate web of lies, Peggy is just this vaguely exasperated voice from the ether, so we don't even really have Bette to hold onto during this trial. Ah, here she is!

Why in heaven's name is she still smiling? For the love of all that is good and decent, don't encourage these tiresome shenanigans! At this point, since Peggy and Jimmy have just met, I think it's suitable to share The Only Interesting Story Relating to Hell's House (and that's including the plot). This may well be apocryphal, but, hell, it's in Spada's Davis biography, so I'm gonna report it as fact. Apparently, Junior Durkin, that young Olivier, majorly had the hots for our Bette. So much so, in fact, that during one cut scene - lost to the ages - in which Peggy comforts the doltish Jimmy, the young 'actor', if I may call him that, developed... how to say this tactfully? Oh, screw it: he got an absolutely raging hard-on. And then all his peers got hold of the footage and mocked him mercilessly. And then he died in a car accident and faded into obscurity. Cheerful story. Moving on... As if to emphasise how completely he lacks any sort of understanding of anything that happens around him, Jimmy responds to Kelly introducing him and Peggy with the frankly gobsmacking, and I quote: 'Aw, you were only kidding. You knew her all the time.' REALLY? YA THINK?! Oh my god. Every time I think this character cannot possibly get more vexatious... Okay. Deep breaths. I am not even halfway through this movie. That is truly harrowing.

Don't you DARE aid and abet this idiocy, Peggy. Oh, now they're going back to her place to deposit her groceries. I'm sure they'll have an incredibly profound discussion that will move the plot forward a great deal once they get there. (I have to keep telling myself that eventually something will happen. I know it will. I've seen this movie before. But somehow, when recapping it, its total stagnation is even more apparent and excruciating.) No such luck. Jimmy sits down, a radio is turned on, Peggy puts away groceries, Jimmy comments on how swell Peggy is (even less acting than usual going on there, eh, Durkin? *suggestive eyebrow waggle*), Kelly makes pretentious and irrelevant reading recommendations and generally sucks at magic, everyone tiresomely points out yet again their one and only personality trait, same old, same old. Peggy breaks the monotony by saying something that, in light of the story about Junior Durkin's, erm, attraction to the actress playing her, is, in my opinion, hilarious: 'Why Jimmy - how nice. Getting up, I mean.' BAHAHA. (Good lord, I really am getting desperate.) Oh god, and now we're having another awkward moment about Jimmy's dead mother. Hate it when that happens. (By the way, is it really supposed to have been only a week? It feels like this scene alone has been going on for several millennia.) But Peggy is sympathetic and rushes over to comfort the lad.

I don't know about you, but I'm feeling some serious chemistry here. OH! OH! And now Peggy comes out with a killer: 'Jimmy, I want you to promise me something. Anytime you feel lonesome, will you come and see me?' OH, AND HOW! See, the erection story really does make everything more interesting. Just then, the ringing of Peggy's telephone mercifully cuts through the (imaginary) sexual tension.

'Hello? Plot device? Is that you?' I love that Peggy's response to a phone call she can't understand is that it must be for Kelly. Also: why are they calling her house to talk to Kelly? Obviously, they aren't shacked up, since he's boarding with Auntie Em and Uncle Henry (and Toto too). So...? Anyway, I'm going to have to agree with Peggy on this one. The caller is a totally incomprehensible, apparently drunk old guy who appears to be completely fucking insane and is spouting more nonsensical shit than Kelly could ever possibly come up with - I mean, this guy is seriously off the rails. And he's only calling to tell Kelly that 'everything's under control'. Um, thanks, but I think the overt raving lunacy kind of belies everything being 'under control'.

And he kind of looks like a deranged mole-man. This is the single most disturbing individual encountered in the BDM so far. Probably won't stay that way for terribly long, but he holds the title for the time being. To top it all off, he just hangs up. Okay, this is a completely bizarre interaction, but at least it does us the great service of setting some goddamn PLOT in motion. So off goes Kelly to deal with his lunatic friend/employee/whatever, leaving Peggy and Jimmy all on their lonesome. Bow-chicka-bow-bow. Oh no, wait. Scratch that - Jimmy's going home too. Don't know about you, but I'm quite relieved. Damn, that boy is awkward.

Meanwhile, Kelly heads shiftily into a brick building somewhere. Gee, I sure hope he's not engaged in some half-brained illegal enterprise that a certain gullible adolescent stumbles into and winds up in a juvenile 'hell's house'. The weird old dude is still drunk-dialling people - 'Charlie' this time - and in a shocking display of capability, Kelly fires his ass. Well-played, sir, well-played. His ex-employee alleges that he'll regret this tomorrow, when he sobers up. Ho ho! What ribald, Chaucerian wit! OH FOR GOD'S SAKE. Jimmy's followed Kelly! His entrance line after bumbling into what I'm assuming is the base for a bootlegging operation? '*stupid boyish chuckle* Oh, found ya.' Ye gods, my loathing for this character knows no bounds. 'Gee, ain't you talented,' Kelly says sarcastically. For once, a character in this film is actually speaking for the audience. Thank you. Jimmy, the least perceptive person in the known universe, is unclear whether or not this response means that Kelly is genuinely pleased. I say yet again, OH FOR GOD'S SAKE. But, on the bright-ish side, we do finally get to find out what it was that the lad wanted to talk to his beloved Mr. Kelly about: in light of Uncle Henry and Auntie Em's current financial predicament - at the hands of the dastardly Miss Gulch, no doubt - he wonders if Kelly could use his high-powered connections to find him a job. I think we can all see where this is going. The opening titles contained a pointed reminder of Prohibition; Kelly just fired a crazy drunk guy from a mysterious warehouse job; Jimmy has just wandered into said mysterious warehouse; Kelly thinks of himself as a big shot; big shots in 1930s films tend to be bootleggers; Jimmy has to end up in a horrible juvenile institution somehow...

And so Jimmy is hired for a vague entry-level position in a bootlegging operation. O frabjous day, etc., etc.

But it seems he won't be there for long, since the plot appears to have decided at long last to get a move on, with the introduction of an uptight lady living in clear view of the top-secret bootlegging operation. Apparently a braggart like Kelly sucks at running covert enterprises with any degree of, well, covertness. Who'd've thunk? Neighbour-lady primly tells (presumably) the police about the local racket - just as Jimmy blunders onto the scene. Of course. Oh Jesus, Jimmy's trying to act like a big-shot by proxy. Only it's about seven billion times more obnoxious when he does it, as you'd expect. Jimmy receives his instructions from Kelly and his job is simply to answer the phone, tell whoever it is that Kelly isn't there and take their number. Well, I think even a clod like our Jim can handle that - as long as he doesn't experience a psychotic break like that other guy - although it does seem like a rather weird way of going about bootlegging. But what do I know? Ah, but now we come to the crux of the matter: if there are any surprise guests (i.e. the fuzz), Jimmy is to play dumb, which shouldn't be much of a challenge. He can't even say where he lives, as that will put the G-Men on Kelly's trail. The two 'pals' make a pledge to stand by each other no matter what. Why do I have the funny feeling that one of them's going to be considerably more steadfast about that than the other? At any rate, Kelly deems everything to be 'K.O.' - knock-out? WTF? - and drops the bombshell that Jimmy is going to rake in a whopping 25 bucks a week (his response? 'WHOOPee.'), after which he casually makes his exit. Just in time, too, because goddamn Jimmy decides it's time to ratchet up his thoroughly irritating idolisation/imitation of Kelly up several notches. I think the following still speaks for itself.

Mercifully, the authorities decide to intervene, driving right past Kelly as he departs with a boot-full of illicit liquor. Now we see his true colours, although anyone who's honestly surprised that they turn out to be canary yellow is dangerously naïve. He doesn't go back to bail the poor, innocent dupe out, assuming that as soon as the cops put any sort of pressure on the lad, he'll start squawking. How wrong he is. Jimmy obsessively adheres to instruction, because, let's face it, how else would a simpleton like him have any idea what to do? Pat O'Brien actually plays this sequence rather well, bearing in mind how transparently he has to do it. For some unknown reason, he actually likes the kid and feels bad about letting him take the fall for something he doesn't even understand, twice seriously considering doing the right thing but each time letting his cowardice win out. He's not proud, but, realistically, what else can he do that will let him preserve his illusion of himself as a proper, powerful gangster?

Like I said, it's not particularly subtle, but it works. Or maybe I'm just searching desperately for a character who's actually IN the movie for more than 30 seconds (WHERE ARE YOU, BETTE?) to connect with, I don't know.

Now we start getting to The Entire Reason for This Stupid Film: a thrilling, chilling exposé of the treatment of young lads by the criminal justice system! Kind of. We catch up with Jimmy on his court date, where he is seated next to a hardened delinquent, who is supposed to be 'ethnic', I think, with his darker skin and what may or may not be an attempt at an accent. They and the other dangerous miscreants are being kept at bay by, I shit you not, a middle-aged guy and a piece of twine. These are some serious security measures here. Young Jim is, naturally, filled to the brim with a blind (and hopelessly misguided) faith that Kelly will turn up and, using his close personal 'friendships' with such notables as Rudy Vallee and the police commissioner, get him out of this terrible situation.

Jimmy's about to go into full-on martyr mode. You have been warned. And, of course, all his fellow juvies find his slightly superior insistence that he knows people who know people rather off-putting, especially when all this big talk comes to nothing, as it inevitably will. You're just isolating yourself, Jimmy. Please shut up. (But he won't. He never will - except when it comes to divulging information that could save us all a lot of tedium and trouble. Agh.) As each young miscreant is called in to the judge, who I'm guessing is 'Judge Robinson' (Wallis Clark in his film debut; he has had small, uncredited roles in literally acres of movies that you have definitely seen, from Gone with the Wind to National Velvet to Mildred Pierce, and we'll run into him in such bit-parts throughout the Bette Davis Marathon) and everyone else's friends and relatives turn up, our hero - and it makes me a little ill to have to call him that - starts to get a little worried. Oh dear. Then James Mason is called for. My heart leaps, until I realise that that's merely Jimmy's full name. DAMMIT. He trudges into the judge's chambers, totally alone. Even though it should be dawning on him that he's been left in the lurch, he sticks to Kelly's orders. He denies having any living relatives, refuses to divulge where he lives and expects people to believe that the whole bootlegging thing was his idea. The judge regretfully sentences him to three years at the euphemistically-named 'State Industrial School for Boys'. HELL'S HOUSE, HERE WE COME. As the 'new batch' of eleven boys (with 'two repeaters. Alllllllllways the repeaters,' as the school's superintendent, Mr. Charles Thompson (James A. Marcus, whose career was at its height during the silent era, playing that other notorious proprietor of a desperately unpleasant juvenile institution, Mr. Bumble, in the 1922 version of Oliver Twist), wearily remarks) are assigned their numbers, the aforementioned super comes out to deliver the welcome address. He doesn't seem particularly enthused about his job and appears to be exerting the bare minimum effort, only wanting to keep the boys in his charge under control without parting with too much cash. That's surely a formula for a positive, life-enriching experience, don't you think? Incidentally, Jimmy is given 13144 as his ID. This will relentlessly drilled into everyone's skull throughout his stay in the slammer, so it's best that you lucky readers know about it too. The Superintendent Thompson begins his spiel, announcing that their incarceration is a grand 'opportunity' for the boys and that they will learn a trade and skills to help them become productive members of society. Ah, but you see, sir, the movie's called Hell's House, so we know that this periphrastic talk is just designed to make us all the more horrified when we discover the terrible truth about this place sometime in the next few minutes. Your bluff has been called. More clichés in speechifying to young people follow, i.e. 'you'll get out of this place exactly what you put in'. And off he goes, back to his office, where he's probably doing something amoral. By the way, I'm going to take this opportunity to introduce a rather short, moustachioed fellow who I'm assuming is the 'Captain of the Guard', played by the entertainingly named Hooper Atchley (who you might remember as 'Slavemaster at meeting' in the classic General Spanky or 'Worried Man Awaiting Salt Lake Flight' in Without Orders). The only reason I do this is because I hate leaving out credited members of the cast, no matter how little idea I have of who the hell they are. It just seems like the least I can do somehow.

Well, that seems like a lovely cliffhanger to leave you on. I'm sure you'll all be on tenterhooks until you go over to click on the next part and see what Hell's House has in store for our unbelievably idiotic hero - and, more importantly, whether Peggy will ever show up again. Do please comment; it makes me feel marginally less bonkers for doing this. Only marginally, but still. Thank you, and good night.
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