Powerful study of urban corruption, still timely today
This 1932 Universal feature, directed by action-crime specialist Edward L. Cahn, is a powerful study of urban corruption that is still timely today. Although only 72 minutes long (what a lesson today's filmmakers could learn in that department!!!), the film presents a complete urban society--law enforcement, judiciary, city administration, Mayor's office, organized crime--and a completely corrupt system. Eric Linden plays a bellhop at a swank hotel who happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time his life to be destroyed although he has done nothing wrong. He's simply not "well connected." Simultaneously, corrupt cops conspire with a corrupt DA and a corrupt judge to keep graft-paying mobsters from suffering any harm. The society depicted in the film is corrupt, although there are honest and well-meaning individuals in any particular department who do their best to fight the corruption and to stand up for honest working people--however, those individuals are either destroyed or ignored or frozen out and they have little effect. As a pre-Code film, Afraid to Talk does not pull any punches, and its ending is something you'd never see in a corporate product playing the multiplexes here in 2002. The film moves at a fast pace, and the last five minutes perhaps move at TOO fast a pace, but in its own way the pacing helps to create the feel of inevitability that gives the film its unique fatalistic feel. I watched this with a group of 30 people, all of whom were speechless, realizing the sad, painful truths the film depicts. Afraid to Talk is a forgotten classic that packs a powerful punch, and still does today, 70 years after its initial release. If you ever get a chance to see it, don't miss it.
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