Safe In Hell (1931)

safe in hell 1931

Good drama about a girl hiding out on a small island from a manslaughter charge. She stays in a seedy hotel with a group of men who all have designs on her.

Gilda Carlson (Dorothy Mackaill) is a New Orleans hooker. Her Madam sends her to a hotel room and to her surprise the john is Piet Van Saal , the cause of her being forced into prostitution in the first place. When she tries to leave he grabs her. She tosses a vase at him knocking him out. An ash tray with a lit cigarette lands on the curtains and the hotel burns down.

The next morning her Madam calls and tells her what happened and that there’s a warrant out for her arrest. She’s packing to leave when her sailor boyfriend Carl (Donald Cook) returns from the sea. He proposes to her. She says she can’t marry him and explains what she’s been doing the past year. He’s ready to storm out when they hear a police siren. He realizes he can’t leave her and arranges an escape.

He stashes her in a crate aboard a ship headed for a small Caribbean island that doesn’t have an extradition treaty with the U.S.  He registers her in the only hotel which is populated by a bunch of crooked men. He tells her he wants to marry her and they go to a church. The minister died and a new one won’t be there for a few weeks. They go inside and Carl performs their wedding ceremony himself.

Carl has to report back to his ship and says he’ll be back for her. The men, including a lawyer named Jones (Charles “Ming The Merciless” Middleton) all lust after her. Also giving her the eye is the local sleazy police chief Bruno. He tells the men they are safe from his gallows, his jail and they’re safe in hell.

Gilda plays it straight for weeks and is getting really bored. One night the hotel manager Leonie (Nina Mae McKinney) sings “When It’s Sleepytime Down South.” Gilda knows a party is going on and decides to join in. She gets drunk and has a hangover the next day. The mail is delivered and still nothing from Carl. No one knows Bruno is intercepting the letters.

One day she gets a big surprise as Piet shows up alive and well. He explains what happened and how he ended up with fifty grand from a life insurance policy on himself. He’s going to stay there until things quiet down back in New Orleans. He explains to the other men about his relationship with Gilda.

One of the men, Egan. appoints himself Gilda’s guardian and goes after her. Bruno saves her and then brings her a gun to her hotel room for protection. On the way out he tells his cops he’s going to arrest her for having a loaded gun. Piet goes to her room and continues what he started in New Orleans. She shoots him in self defense.

Now she’s arrested and put on trial with Jones as her lawyer. It comes to a surprising ending and makes this well worth seeking out.

Dorothy Mackaill as Gilda

Dorothy Mackaill as Gilda


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.
This entry was posted in Crime-Mystery-Spy, Drama, vintage movies and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Safe In Hell (1931)

  1. dfordoom says:

    I agree. It’s a fine movie, one of the better pre-code titles.

  2. vintage45 says:

    Pre-code movies seem to be better than most of the early ones that came after.

    • dfordoom says:

      I used to be a big fan of pre-code movies but I’ve gone off them a bit. There are still some that I like but I’ve had quite a few disappointments.

  3. vintage45 says:

    I liked the way they didn’t have to follow any rules. Yeah, a lot of them were creaky but another part of the fun was watching actors trying to deal with sound.

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