“Hooked”: Untamed curfew breakers on a crazed binge of sex & drugs!

By on April 6, 2017

Hooked — director/screenwriter/actor Alexander Wells’ first and only feature as a director — is a fairly typical late ’50s starch-collared police procedural that’s been jacked up with exploitative Reefer Madness-style elements of juvenile delinquency and rampant drug hysteria. It’s streaming along with other exploitation flicks in our Something Weird collection, over on Night Flight Plus.

Hooked — originally titled Curfew Breakers and it was also released into theaters as Narcotics Squad — is a good example of the updated late Fifties-era J.D. picture, where you still get some of the 1940’s film noir-ish influence — including lots of moody scenes where detectives and perps are striped with light pouring through venetian blinds — mixed in with lots of anti-drug moralizing.

By the mid-to-late 1950s, a lot of campy black & white b-movies that were similarly treading the same well-traveled terrain were beginning to swerve away from the main road, plunging theater audiences into a seedy, shadow-filled nightmare world filled with jazzbo junkies, bebop joints and needle drugs.

However, even b-movies had to keep up with changes going on in the real world and so the junky jazz fiends were soon being replaced by rock ‘n’ roll lovin’ high school hipster dopers, and they were just as easily scoring their junk at suburban sock hops and soda shops as they could have in dark urban back alley locales.

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The short-haired teen dopers sometimes spoke their own new-fangled hipster lingo, sometimes while begging a pusherman for their next dope fix, and occasionally we do hear 50’s rock ‘n’ roll tunes on the soundtrack too, although it seems like movie studios just couldn’t kick the sound of beatnik jazz cold turkey.

That said, there are a couple of scenes where we get to see a jazzy R&B band at a juke joint, with a dude on saxophone who’s apparently blowing his own mind, and a slinky beatnik babe, the band’s female drummer, singing a bluesy tune called “Baby, Have Yourself a Time.”

Even these tunes, however, where identified as “rock ‘n’ roll” tunes in the film’s original trailer.

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The teens in Curfew Breakers, by the way, all look to be about 35 years old, which is fairly odd, since their parents — who meet up with concerned high school authorities to talk about the horrors of heroin and other drugs, a la Reefer Madness — don’t look that much older than them.

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The tough-talking “Dragnet”-style detectives were pretty much the same in every police procedural drug bust flick back then, though.

They approach the cracking down on illegal narcotic use among the juvenile delinquent crowd with the same level gusto and hackneyed hard-boiled dialogue that they’d had in earlier movies in the 1940s and early ’50s.

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The plot for Curfew Breakers (or Hooked, if you prefer) kicks into high gear right away, where an undercover narc is shot full of lead in a phone booth.

Lieutenant Lacey (Paul Kelly) is called in to investigate, and the trail leads him right back to a local high school he’s been keeping his eye on, where a dope dealer has been sellin’ bindles of heroin to the students lookin’ for new kicks.

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An amiable football coach named Bettger (Regis Toomey, wearing a bow tie!) has noticed that one of his star athletes, 17-year old Ray Bowman, has been acting pretty weird lately, skipping practice and failing to turn in his homework.

Bettger thinks the best way to handle it is to go straight to the cops, who then decide to pay a visit to Ray’s aunt (Cathy Downs), who has been taking care of him since the breakup of his parents.

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She doesn’t believe Ray would do anything as dangerous as taking drugs, but then Ray turns up dead from a heroin overdose, which turns out to have been from a fatal “hot shot,” his dealer’s sure-fire way of making sure he won’t squeal to the cops (that’s what you get for tryin’ to buy a fix on “credit,” dumbass doper).

Meanwhile, a couple of junked-up teen fiends end up killing a gas station attendant in a botched hold-up in an attempt to get cash to buy more dope, while a third plummets off the roof of a condemned hi-rise building while fleeing from the law.

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Ray’s dealer, Jimmy (Larry Getz), is losin’ customers fast, so he persuades his sexy girlfriend, Julie Bishop (Sheila Urban), to lure Big Man On Campus hot dog Dick Williams (Cullen Wheelas) to a party, where she’ll introduce him to the joys of “joy popping,” the idea being that other teens will play “follow the leader.”

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However, Lieutenant Lacey and members of his Narcotics Squad, including a detective named Anderson (Alexander J. Wells, the film’s director/screenwriter) are hot on their trail, working their way up the chain, using a strung-out J.D. loser as their confidential informant in order to find Jimmy and stop him from slingin’ any mo’ smack at the school before any more junked-up jocks show up dead.

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Most of the credits, by the way, list the supporting characters as either “Hoodlum,” “Pusher,” “Addict,” or “Coroner”!

In Curfew Breakers — the movie’s original title was later changed to Hooked for the film’s re-release — actor Paul Kelly’s Lieutenant Lacey gets most of the movie’s best lines, from the screenplay written by Wells, saying “Organized narcotics traffic is big business, and to get to the top, you’ve got to go to the bottom!”

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Kelly — who often played tough-guy characters, with a stern, set jaw and a mean-looking glint, appearing here with silver hair and a pencil mustache — never got to go to the film’s premiere, as he died from a fatal heart attack on November 6, 1956, shortly after returning to his Beverly Hills home after voting for Adlai Stevenson in the presidential election (the popular incumbent candidate, Dwight D. Eisenhower, was re-elected). He was 57 years old.

When Curfew Breakers premiered in Los Angeles, a few months after Kelly’s death, on February 13, 1957, it was one of two movies of his that were released posthumously (the other was Bailout at 43,000).

He also lived quite a life, both on screen and off.

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Paul Kelly was born August 9, 1899 in Brooklyn, NY, the ninth of ten children in an Irish immigrant family, and began acting as a child, appearing in early silent films.

Curfew Breakers capped off a long, varied acting career that included more than ninety films in the sound era — many of them memorable Hollywood movies that have stood the test of time — as well as hundreds of silent movies, and over seventy plays.

Today, however, despite all the great movie roles and appearances on Broadway, Kelly is probably remembered more for the fact that he killed another actor, Ray Raymond, in a fist fight.

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On May 31, 1927, Kelly was found guilty of manslaughter after beating Raymond to death with his fists.

Kelly had been having an affair with Raymond’s wife, Zeigfield Follies star Dorothy “Dot” Mackaye.

He’d first met Mackaye when they were both acting on Broadway; Mackaye, described by the New York Times as a “red-headed charmer” who specialized in musical comedy, was seen as a teen actress to watch.

Kelly was merely defending himself when he was attacked by Mackaye’s abusive alcoholic husband, who ended up dying from his injuries.

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Kelly spent a little over two years of his one-to-ten year sentence in California’s infamous San Quentin prison. Dorothy Mackaye would also briefly imprisoned, after she was judged an accomplice for withholding information from the court.

A few years after Kelly was released from prison, freed on August 2, 1929, telling reporters “I’m headed straight for the comeback trail … and I’m going to hit it hard.”

Kelly and Mackaye would eventually get married, in 1931. She later died in the San Fernando Valley in what was described as a freak automobile accident, in 1940.

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Paul Kelly, wife Dorothy, and actor Gordon Westcott in 1935 (taken the same year that Wescott would die of head injuries he sustained when Walt Disney’s horse trampled him after he fell in a polo match)

Kelly’s acting career as a busy supporting actor on Broadway and in Hollywood picked up where he’d left off almost immediately, which wasn’t a sure thing, considering that The Poor Nut, a movie he’d had a prominent supporting role in before he was locked up, was eventually released, in 1928, with Kelly’s name stripped from the credits.

After Kelly made his talkie debut in 1932’s musical melodrama Broadway Through A Keyhole, Kelly signed with Universal and thereafter appeared in countless gangster films, many of them low-budget B pictures, acting in movies for the next three decades.

He appeared in countless, memorable films like The Roaring Twenties (1939, with James Cagney and Humphrey Bogart), Flying Tigers (1942), and Edward Dmytryk’s 1947 film noir classic Crossfire.

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He also appeared in such Poverty Row fare as Tarzan’s New York Adventure, and, later, in a couple of ’50s film noir classics, Fear In the Night and The File on Thelma Jordan.

Kelly also returned to the Broadway stage in 1947, winning the Donaldson and the 1948 Tony Award as Best Actor (Dramatic) for his performance in Command Decision; three years later, he starred in the original stage production of Clifford Odets’ The Country Girl.

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Kelly in The High and the Mighty (1954)

One of Kelly’s last roles was a role he’d had some first-hand experience in, portraying real-life prison warden Clinton Duffy in Duffy of San Quentin.

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Curfew Breakers‘ director, Alexander J. Wells, also appears in a key role as a detective named “Anderson.”

Wells was a sometime actor, appearing in minor, mostly unnamed parts in movies like 1953’s Stalag 17 (as “Bearded Prisoner”) and ’54’s Silent Raiders (as “German Corporal”), and in 1957 he appeared in a single episode of TV’s popular series “Death Valley Days.”

Curfew Breakers also features Cathy Downs, who memorable starred in John Ford’s My Darling Clementine, and she also appeared in several schlocky 1950s sci-fi features, including The Phantom From 10,000 Leagues (1955), The She Creature (1956), The Amazing Colossal Man (1957) and Missile To The Moon (1958).

Watch Hooked (aka Curfew Breakers) along with other ’50s-era J.D. features — it’d make a good double feature along with 1956’s The Flaming Teenage — in our Something Weird collection over on Night Flight Plus.

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, assistant editor for the When You Awake blog, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.