Back Door to Heaven (1939)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Melodrama  |   Run Time - 81 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Craig Butler

Back Door to Heaven was given a pretty laudatory reception upon its release in 1939, despite its status as a "B" movie. The critics and audiences back then responded to the social message it was presenting, a message that spoke to how the actions of all in society can have a profound effect upon an individual's life and the path that he takes. Seen today, Heaven doesn't have so much impact and regrettably comes across as preachy and exceedingly manipulative. Its oversimplified black-and-white views seem laughably naïve today, even if it does retain some small power thanks to the sheer dedication the creators bring to its melodramatics. Director William Howard displays a strong hand, giving the picture a distinctive air, but it's not necessarily to the good of the picture. The performances he draws forth from his cast have commitment, but they also have a certain mannered feeling to them; you can feel them responding to Howard, underplaying moments because they were told to, or going for the emotion in too obvious a way. Still, the cast pulls it off, with strong work from Wallace Ford helping to anchor the film. Heaven has dated terribly, but it still holds some minor interest.