Night Court (1932)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Crime Drama  |   Release Date - Jun 4, 1932 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 90 min.  |   Countries - United States  |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Bruce Eder

The 1930s is filled with crime thrillers of all kinds, many of them topical -- but Night Court is just about in a class by itself, as a thriller that is not far from the truth in its setting (a fictionalized New York City, at a time when city and state government in New York were over-flowing with corrupt officials, including judges) and realistically harrowing in its plot and portrayals. Anita Page gives one of the finest performances of her career as an innocent young mother, caught up along with her hard-working husband (Phillips Holmes) in a Kafka-esque web of official lies and deceptions. The level of casual corruption depicted in this film, surrounding these two innocents (and their infant son) is astonishing in the twenty-first century, but was quite accurate for its time, and director W. S. Van Dyke handles all of it with the same smooth, sure hand that he brought to the Thin Man movies a little later in the decade, to a completely opposite effect. Only the last 10 minutes of the movie stretch credibility to the breaking point, but given all that has come before, and the extraordinary juggling feat that the director and the script have pulled off across 80 minutes, they can be forgiven this failing.