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Safe in Hell

Call girl Gilda Karlson is wanted for the murder of the man that led her into prostitution. Fleeing the authorities, she finds deadly sanctuary on an island of criminals.
Safe in Hell
1.2K ratings
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Format:  DVD-R
sku:  WAC 638889D

DVD Features:

  • Rated: Not Rated
  • Run Time: 1 hours, 14 minutes
  • Video: Black & White
  • Released: November 8, 2011
  • Originally Released: 1931
  • Label: Warner Archive Collection (MOD)
  • Encoding: Region 0 (Worldwide)
  • Aspect Ratio: Full Frame
  • Audio:
    • PCM Mono - English

Performers, Cast and Crew:

Starring , , , &
Directed by
Edited by
Screenwriting by &
Cinematography by
Art Direction by
Director of Photography:

Entertainment Reviews:


Total Count: 5


User Ratings: 85
A shout-out is deserved as well for two of the finest African-American performers working in Hollywood in the 1930s, Nina Mae McKinney and Clarence Muse. Full Review
Arts Fuse
Nov 16, 2017
Rating: A- -- Neglected gem. Full Review
Ozus' World Movie Reviews
Mar 9, 2011
Rating: 4/5 -- It's a film of great faces, but for all of the seedy atmosphere and leering grandeur, it's really about the limited options of women in a male-dominated world. Full Review
Dare Daniel
May 9, 2019
Rating: 3.5/4 -- Contrary to the implied theology of its title, 'Safe in Hell' depicts a hopeless, godless world in which man -- and especially woman -- is just another morsel of meat on the food chain. Full Review
Commercial Appeal (Memphis, TN)
Jan 23, 2012
It's a situation that can't end well, and it doesn't under the blunt and forceful direction of William A. Wellman, who drives the film to its stunningly bleak conclusion in a thrifty 73 minutes.
New York Times
Jan 6, 2012
...imagine Casablanca as a lice-infested backwater run by mercenary opportunists and filled with the sleaziest criminals to escape a manhunt. Full Review
Parallax View
Feb 19, 2012

Description by

Gilda (Dorothy Mackaill) thought she had fallen as far as a woman could fall when she got a call telling her a client was requesting her "services." But when the client turns out to be the man responsible for her fall from grace, Gilda flies into a murderous rage. Taking it on the lam, Gilda finds shelter in the arms of a sailor boyfriend (Donald Cook) who smuggles her to sanctuary and safety, or so he thinks. In reality he has booked her a bridal suite in hell.

Product Description:

A young Barbara Stanwyck was considered for the starring role as the exiled call-girl in this extremely frank pre production-code drama directed by William A. Wellman from a play by Houston Branch). The role eventually went ot Dorothy Mackaill, an evocative British-born veteran adept at playing less than respectable women. Mackaill is Gilda Karlson, a call-girl fleeing New Orleans the supposed murder of her latest "john," Piet Van Saal (Ralf Harolde). Old boyfriend Carl Erickson (Donald Cook) arranges for safe passage to Tortuga, a Caribbean Island without extradition laws. After "marrying" the girl in the eyes of God but without the benefit of clergy, Carl leaves on his ship. Having successfully kept an international array of escaped crooks at bay, Gilda suddenly finds herself face-to-face with Van Saal, still very much alive and on Tortuga because an insurance scam went astray. The island's jealous executioner, Bruno (Morgan Wallace), hands the girl a gun "to protect herself." Van Saal attacks her, and this time Gilda manages to kill her tormentor. About to be acquitted of murder by a sympathetic jury, Gilda chooses to "confess" in order to escape a trap set by Bruno. To the strains of Pagan Moon, the wronged girl bravely faces the gallows. Forthrightly told and extremely well acted, SAFE IN HELL features two prominent African-American performers -- Nina Mae McKinney and Clarence Muse -- portraying completely un-stereotypical characters. Muse, in fact, persuaded director Wellman to drop the screenplay's standard "black" lines in favor of straight dialogue. McKinney, famous for playing the vamp in King Vidor's all-black HALLELUJAH! (1929), performs When It's Sleepy Time Down South by Clarence Muse.


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Movie Lovers' Ratings & Reviews:

Customer Rating:
Based on 1235 ratings.
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Safe In Hell - A Pre Code Masterpiece! Movie Lover: from BRONX, NY US -- September, 17, 2015

William A. Wellman is one of Hollywood's greatest directors! His classics include " Wings" (1927) "The Public Enemy" (1931) "A Star Is Born(1937) and so many countless others! However, " Safe In Hell" always get overlooked! Folks, this film is one of the best pre code films ever made! Dorothy Mackaill gives a performance for the ages as a call girl fleeing the authorities to venture on a deserted island filled with undesirables! Unfortunately, Ms. Mackaill's career took a backward turn after this film yet "Safe In Hell" is an all time classic! If you are into pre code movies like myself, this film belongs in your collection!

Studio Vaults
Warner Archive Collection

Product Info

  • Sales Rank: 12,609
  • UPC: 883316388891
  • Shipping Weight: 0.25/lbs (approx)
  • International Shipping: 1 item

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