(1937)3Michael CostelloArchie Mayo's Depression-era melodrama, like the earlier Black Terror (1936), was based on the murder of a WPA worker in Michigan by the designated executioner of a hate group known as the Black Legion. Like many of the groups which fed on the racism and xenophobia that grew with the period's desperate conditions, the Legion combined mob-like extortion tactics with those of Multi-Level Marketing, profiting from the sales of Legion paraphernalia to its membership. Aside from focusing on a subject which was daring at the time, the film is basically a stock melodrama, similar to the gangster pictures Warner was churning out by the dozen. Still, Humphrey Bogart gives the film some electricity, his vaguely aggrieved persona well-suited to the part of the disgruntled blue-collar worker; when he's passed over for a promotion, one sees shades of the paranoia of Fred C. Dobbs. While the film's treatment of this subject may now be somewhat dated, its basic take on the way in which these groups play on the self-hatred of its members remains accurate. After the film was released, Warner Bros. was sued by the Ku Kux Klan for patent infringement, claiming the film had stolen their insignia for that of its "fictional" group.