Proof That It’s Pre-Code:
- You know blatantly Jewish stereotypes, yes? Oy, they are in this film! I’m kvetching!
- Gangsters dealing with the end of Prohibition.
- Out and out catfight that lasts for about a minute. Stay classy, you crappy movie!
- Drugs and narcotics mentioned often. If only they passed some out to the audience maybe then this could have been a worthwhile experience.
The Big Shakedown is cheap, shallow, and moralistic in the stupidest ways possible. As a film, it falls closer to ‘ripped from the headlines’ dreck like the original Reefer Madness or I Accuse My Parents than anything you’d expect out of a studio system firing near the peak of its creative output.
Don’t get me wrong, it starts off okay. It opens with Bette Davis in her own private version of Clerks as she helps customers and would-be customers in a dingy drugstore on a New York City street corner. One is a Jewish kid who keeps careful track of his expenditures (including a $.06 ice cream cone) in a ledger. Another is a woman who needs alcohol for her baby’s condition, even though both she and Bette know that that bottle isn’t going to last the walk home.