In Hell’s Highway the entire action, with the exception of one scene, occurs in and around a prison camp in some southern state; the preponderance of the convict labor is negro. The convicts have been hired to work on a new road. The contractor tells his foreman that he bid 50% under his nearest competitor and to win a profit he must get twice as much work out of the convicts.
To force their efforts recourse is had to the lash and the sweatbox, the latter a structure of corrugated iron barely large enough to contain a man, and placed so that the metal absorbs the full force of the burning sun.
Richard Dix is one of the convicts. His brother (Tom Brown) is sent to the gang for having shot and wounded Dix’s betrayer. Dix, who is planning an escape, has to prevent the kid from coming along.
The direction is remarkably good at most points. Some handsome scenic backgrounds are created during the hunt for the convicts.
The director is rather less successful in his effort to inject comedy. Once or twice a nance camp laborer is employed, once for a genuine if smutty laugh. Other humor is supposed to arise from the smug mouthings of the Hermit (Charles Middleton), a crazed religionist type.
Dix is wasted as the young convict, with Brown much more effective as the kid. Louise Carter is an almost total loss in her single scene, as is Rochelle Hudson. Clarence Muse, in a very small bit, strikes one of the few really human notes.