Story: Mike (Frankie Darro) earns his coins by pitching for newspapers on the street, but he is about to get a major scoop himself. His grandfather (Burr Caruth) has had some good luck and won a valuable sweepstakes, which of course delights Mike to no end. As it turns out however, the sweepstakes was a scam and his grandfather wasn’t the lone victim of the grift, as it was part of an ongoing series of just such fake lotteries. The evidence points to Tony Franco (Harry Worth), a nightclub proprietor who is not above bending the law for a quick buck. But when the scam turns lethal, Mike, Tony, and even Mike’s own sister wind up pulled into a whirlwind of crime and betrayal.
Entertainment Value: Tough to Handle might be under an hour in duration, but it doesn’t hold back on content, as this picture has drama, crime, thrills, comedy, and even musical numbers, so it never rests on its laurels. Of course, how good each of these elements might be is another story, but it is nice to see how ambitious the filmmakers were here. The narrative is a crime classic, a scam sweepstakes, but the script is passable and there are some fresh touches applied, so while familiar, Tough to Handle never feels like a simple retread. There are also a lot of fistfights in this movie, so if things ever did slow down at all, it isn’t long before another brawl breaks out. And the fighting is quite fun to watch, as it is so over the top, it is almost comical at times. The musical scenes proved to be my least favorite element and likely served just to pad the duration, but it was also kind of humorous to have these unrelated musical numbers break out at random points. Tough to Handle is likely not going to be remembered as a classic, but it is a decent watch and offers some entertainment.
The cast here has some recognizable faces, with Frankie Darro, as a newsboy of all roles, as our main star power and lead performer. Darro seems to be put in these roles as much younger characters and while he is fine in Tough to Handle, I feel like Darro’s talents are often underestimated and that seems to have been the case here. I think he could have offered more in terms of performance and character, if the filmmakers had given him the chance. But he does all he is asked here and as always, it is fun to see him fly off the handle and engage in fisticuffs. He brings energy to the picture, if nothing else, which it needs in many instances. Harry Worth is also notable as the nightclub owner, as he has some memorable scenes and turns in a rock solid effort. The cast here also includes Betty Burgess, Stanley Price, Phyllis Fraser, and Kane Richmond.