Wild Boys of the Road (Dangerous Days) Reviews
(1933) Wild Boys of the Road
During 'The Great Depression', the film focuses on three somewhat underage teenagers living amongst themselves whilst living on the streets, creating unity amongst to defeat harsh conditions! More of a social commentary film which showcases the limits some teenagers do as well as adults to survive such as hiking onto a train from city to city, just to find a little work! Great moral road picture despite the short running time of an hour and 17 minutes!
3 out of 4
The film starts off innocently enough as it introduces Eddie Smith and his friend Tommy. They are that typical best buds type of childhood friends and nothing can separate them. The neighborhood and people all seem like a typical idyllic early Americana characters with nary a whiff of negativity in the air. Things go sour very quickly however as we learn that Tommy needs 75 cents to enter school and his mom lost her job a few months back and he knows she can't afford it. Eddie decides he can ask his dad for the money but soon learns that his father has also suddenly lost his job.
Things become worse and worse as the bills mount in Eddie's household. His parent try to maintain a positive attitude but Eddie is not fooled. He hocks his beloved beat up jalopy to help his parents out and attempts to pass it off as "no big deal". His father is no fool either as slowly Eddie breaks down and his father attempts to comfort him in a very touching scene.
Eddie and Tommy decided that they need to leave town in hopes of finding jobs somewhere else. If they aren't around they won't be a burden to their parents and if they can find jobs they can send the money back home. Quickly deciding upon this course of action they pack up a few things and hop on a train out of town. Very quickly they meet another person stowing away on their particular car who, in a bit of quick false accusation, turns out throws a mean right hook and...she's a girl. Her name is Sally and she's from large family and was also tired of being a burden. She however has a destination. She has an aunt in Chicago and hopes to stay with her while she looks for a job. The three quickly bond over food and they hop trains all the way to Chicago.
Things quickly go from bad to worse over and over again and the kids slowly amass a large gang of rail riding children from all over in their attempt to find a destination that allows them to work and live like normal citizens. This film is unwavering in its delivery of the kids and their plight as it actually happened in the '30s. The film is shot on actual locations and and so there's a incredible sense of realism to the film which only further helps to strengthen the depressing nature of their plight and their living conditions. The kids are constantly beset upon by railroad cops and the towns in which they attempt to live at by constructing small shanty towns will not have them and they are forced out from town after town.
Things get darker as one of the other girls riding with them gets separated from them in a struggle and she is sexually assaulted by a train worker. After the kids have chased the cops away (yes you read that right), the worker comes back to tell the kids to shove off his train. When the girls screams and identifies him as the attack the kids attack him in force and he ends up falling off the train to his death. Fearing for their safety the kids bail out of the moving train in a truly scary sequence involving non-stunt kids BAILING OFF OF A MOVING TRAIN! Tommy gets tripped up and a train runs over his leg and it has to be amputated.
The kids eventually make their way to New York in last ditch effort to make money and not die by starvation. The luck finally pays off as Eddie gets a job but he needs a uniform in order to get it. He goes out to panhandle for the money and gets tricked into committing a crime by some local gangsters. The three of them are arrested and brought before the judge but they will not tell the judge anything as they don't want to burden their parents with their misfortune. The judge admits to them that he can't help them unless he tells them something at which point Eddie breaks down and yells out a great speech echoing the pain and heartache that so many people were feeling at that time all around the United States.
Unfortunately this is where the intensity of the movie and the point it is trying to make by demonstrating the horrors that the kids have to put up with is kind of deflated. Suddenly the judge basically goes out of his way to make everything all nice and perfect for them. He's going to get Eddie his job, He's going to put Sally in a nice home where she can work and he's going to see that Tommy gets some medical help. He then makes a bold statement about how America is turning around and soon everyone will be back to work. Yay! Everything is awesome!
Apparently that was a changed ending forced upon the director by the studio guys feeling pressure about making films involving stark realism that is a bit too stark for the public in their eyes. Originally Eddie goes to reform school and Sally went to jail for 10 years and...well we don't know what happens to Tommy. The only problem I have with that is why would Sally go to prison and not Eddie? Anyways, the suddenly turn around in tone kind of takes the seriousness out of the picture and is a little disappointing.
Regardless it's still a fine film that documents the struggles of the common ma...er kid during those troubled times in a way no film ever did. The tone is simple and without artistic flourish and, those this may disappoint the more artistically inclined fans of more aesthetically driven directors, the matter of fact approach adds to the almost documentary feel of the film.
I recommend the film but the ending will probably disappoint you. Just pretend the film ends with Eddie's speech and everything will be OK.
This movie shows the struggle of teen runaways in the 30's who felt like they were burdens on their poverty stricken families and so took to the rails hitching rides, pan-handling on street corners, taking any job they could get without asking any questions and the harsh realities and consequences a life like this will get you. (One of the boys loses his leg in a very harrowing scene).
There's a very shocking and terrifying scene of one of the girl's being taken advantage of that is very chilling. Followed by the other boys she's traveling with finding out and taking their revenge. You get to see the cruelty that adults inflicted on them because they were still kids with little rights and just the general lack of understanding by the adult community in general. This is one of the first movies to really show the zeitgeist of a generation of teenagers and was not in the least demeaning.
This movie doesn't back away and it really told-it-like-it-was and I think it is worth watching for anyone interested in this time period.
The only real complaint is the ending which does feel very shoe-horned in, but I guess at the time one could argue that people needed hope a bit more than a realistic harsh bitter ending that might have come off as too nihilistic for the 30's audience that was probably not ready for a movie like that.
One of the best movies I've watched in a long while.