A Pre-Code Punch to the Gut – Edward L. Cahn’s Laughter in Hell Screens in a New 35mm Print – Dec 5 at NEIU

The Auditorium at Northeastern Illinois University – Building E, 3701 W. Bryn Mawr Ave
General Admission: $7 • NEIU Students: $3

Wednesday, December 5 @ 7:30 PM
LAUGHTER IN HELL
Directed by Edward L. Cahn • 1933
A rising, visionary director at Universal Pictures in the early years of the Great Depression and later subject of cult appreciation, Edward L. Cahn unceremoniously disappeared from the studio’s roster in 1933, relegated to poverty row cheapies and Our Gang shorts for the remainder of his filmmaking days. That year saw the release of his final picture for the studio, the explosive, controversial chain gang drama Laughter in Hell, an archetypal film maudit transgressive enough to end even the most illustrious career. An adaptation of hobo-writer Jim Tully’s novel of the same name, Laughter in Hell follows the tribulations of train engineer Barney (Pat O’Brien), who flies into a homicidal rage after discovering his wife has been carrying on an affair with his childhood nemesis and winds up sentenced to a lifetime of hard labor. Barney’s time on the chain gang provides grist for one of the most hellacious passages in American cinema, wherein the inmate witnesses horrors of pestilence and abuse, including an act of racially motivated violence that put the film in the crosshairs of local censorship boards discomfited by its indictment of institutional corruption. Little seen since its initial release and reported lost for years, Universal has finally unleashed Laughter in Hell from the vault in a recently struck 35mm print to stun audiences anew. (CW)
70 min • Universal Pictures • 35mm from Universal
Short: “A Burglar to the Rescue” (George Cochrane, 1931) – 18 min – 35mm from Universal

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