Buried Alive (1939)

Prison movie with an implausible ending but it’s still not a bad one to spend some time with. Johnny the trustee gets into hot water when he saves the state’s executioner during a barroom brawl.

Ernie Matthews (George Pembroke) wrestles with his conscious when he has to pull the switch on a murderer. He does his job and then decides to go out and get drunk. Johnny Martin (Robert Wilcox) is a trustee and drives the warden’s car. The prison doctor is going on vacation and Johnny drives him and nurse Joan (Beverly Roberts) to the station. Ernie is along for the ride. He’s dropped off at a bar.

In the bar are a group of reporters who witnessed the execution. One is loud mouth Manning (Wheeler Oakman). He’s bragging about the executions he’s seen. A drunken Ernie approaches him and Manning slugs him. Ernie hit him back and the brawl is on. Outside Johnny and Joan are in the car and Johnny runs in to see what’s going on.

He gets Ernie out of there. On the way back Johnny passes out. He was cut on the neck and is now in the hospital. His parole hearing is coming up and it looks like he’ll be getting out. Not so fast.

Manning’s paper has been after the Governor and is using the incident to call for an investigation into soft conditions at the prison. The Warden is told by the Governor and the State’s Attorney General that Johnny won’t get his parole. They want him on ice for another year.

At the hearing Johnny freaks and threatens the head of the parole board. On the way back to prison he almost turns the car towards Canada. His bad luck continues. While he was in the hospital it was instant romance between he and Joan.

When they pull up to the prison he sees the silhouettes of Joan and prison official Ira Hanes. She has her arms around him. He doesn’t know it but Joan was just showing gratitude for Ira’s promise of help for Johnny. He cops an attitude. Joan straightens him out.

Back in his cell there’s trouble. His cellmate is Big Billy (Don Rowan). He reminds Johnny of Lenny from “Of Mice And Men.” In the next cell is a prisoner who keeps calling Johnny a fink because he resents his position as trustee. Big Billy is surprised Johnny is coming back but he’s glad to see him.

When Johnny walks into the cell he tells Billy the doc wants to see him. He doesn’t want to go. He forced to by a guard who is always abusing him. Billy’s had it and strangles him and injures another guard.

Billy runs off and Johnny chases him. The guards on the wall see them running. They shoot Billy dead and wound Johnny. Johnny’s charged with the guard’s murder. Looks like Ernie’s going to have to pull the switch on his pal. The guy in the cell next to Johnny saw what really happened but he’s not talking.

Not a bad B movie and it avoids most of the prison movie cliches.

Don Rowan played Captain Torch in 1940’s serial “Flash Gordon Conquers The Universe.”



About vintage45

I'm a big fan of vintage books,movies,TV shows and music. I encourage everyone to patronize your local used book/record store and pick up some of the good stuff. My posts are capsule reviews of some favorites that you may want to investigate. The albums posted aren't really reviews but items from my collection that are still available. I try and point out highlights of each one and let the music speak for itself. Thanks to all for checking out the blog.
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