Night Court

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Walter Huston was equally good at playing villains and heroes, an attribute that is fully on display in W. S. Van Dyke's Night Court. Set in an unnamed but obvious New York City, the movie is built around the chicanery of Huston's corrupt Judge Moffett, a man who is in on -- directly or indirectly -- a lot of the crime going on in the city. When innocent bystander Mary Thomas (Anita Page) accidentally stumbles on a piece of information that could compromise the judge, he contrives to get her arrested on a prostitution charge -- and then appoints a stooge attorney to represent her, who persuades her to plead guilty for a quick release, which provides the judge with an excuse to lock her up for six months. Her honest cab-driver husband Mike (Phillips Holmes) is bewildered by all of these events, which take place in a single evening, and includes losing custody of their infant son. He nearly succumbs to his own disillusionment, and only his lack of experience as a drinker prevents him from violating in marriage vows -- and then he's out to save his wife and family, and get even with the judge. He gets thrown a few curve balls that nearly get him killed by some of the judge's nastier underlings, but he manages to steal a march on Moffett. Now it's the judge's turn to sweat, and in the meantime, one of the plots he's made against his reform-minded opponent Osgood (Lewis Stone) goes awry, resulting in a murder. Moffett ends up on the hook for the crime, and has to bargain for his life, and is crafty enough that he thinks he just might be able to weasel out of this prosecution. ~ Bruce Eder, Rovi


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