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HTF REVIEW: Warner Brothers Gangster Collection (VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED).



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#1 of 106 Herb Kane

Herb Kane

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Posted January 24 2005 - 05:24 AM

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[c]Warner Bros. Pictures - GANGSTERS COLLECTION[/c]
[c]The Public Enemy / White Heat / Angels With Dirty Faces / Little Caesar / The Petrified Forest / The Roaring Twenties[/c]





Studio: Warner Brothers
Year: Various
Rated: Not Rated
Film Length: The Public Enemy - 84 mins. / White Heat - 113 mins. / Angels With Dirty Faces - 78 mins. / Little Caesar - 78 mins. / The Petrified Forest - 82 mins. / The Roaring Twenties - 106 mins.
Aspect Ratio: 1.33 Standard
Audio: DD Monaural
Color/B&W: B&W
Languages: English
Subtitles: English, French & Spanish
MSRP: $68.92 (boxed set) or $19.97 (individually)
Package: Single discs/Keepcases





The Feature:
Just as we tend to think of classic musicals when thinking of MGM, Warner Brothers springs to mind when we think of gritty crime and gangster films. On January 25th, 2005, WB will release six of their prized classics within the genre as the WB Gangsters Collection. Included will be: The Public Enemy (1931), White Heat (1949), Angels With Dirty Faces (1938), Little Caesar (1930), The Petrified Forest (1936) and, The Roaring Twenties (1939).

Typically, gangster films deal with those participating within a criminal syndicate or gang who participate in a number of criminal activities such as bank robberies, bootlegging, extortion, racketeering and murder. These films, at least in one form or another have been around since the invention of the medium itself. Typically representative of the period, we often associate cars with running boards used as "getaway" cars, Tommy-Guns as the weapons of choice and the Prohibition era provided perfect subject matter from the 1920's into the early 1930's. Early examples of the genre would include D. W. Griffith's The Musketeers of Pig Alley (1912) as well as Raoul Walsh's Regeneration (1915).

These films are a direct result of German Expressionism from the 1920s and 1930s. A number of (mostly german) directors such as F. W. Murnau, G. W. Pabst, Robert Wiene, Tay Garnett, Rouben Mamoulian and Fritz Lang led the way and included such films as The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1919), Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler (1922), The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (1933), M (1931), Bad Company (1931), City Streets (1931), I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang (1932) and Josef von Sternberg's Underworld (1927) is often considered the first modern example of the gangster genre. After the success of these foreign films were noticed and discovered on this side of the pond, Hollywood identified with the European style which led to the phenomenon, resulting in the birth of a style. Aside from the obvious criminal gangster elements, these films were easily identified by their use of shadowy images and stark camera angles.

While Paul Muni and George Raft may very well be known for many of the earlier gangster films (or in Raft’s case, roles he actually turned down), but Warner Brothers had three secret weapons that would put them far and away ahead of their competitors; They were Edward G. Robinson, James Cagney and a very young Humphrey Bogart. The trio not only defined the "tough guy" role, but they defined the genre itself.

With the world at war, the off-shoot of the gangster genre led to the movement (or genre, if you will), now referred to as film noir. While many of the characteristics and elements are identical to the gangster genre, film noir is thought to be moodier, focusing more on the atmosphere of the film than its content during a time period usually following the Second World War. While many have varying definitions of true film noir, the general consensus among noir aficionados consider most true noir films produced between 1940 and 1960 (with several exceptions on both sides of the dates) and to be of American background (usually taking place in New York, Los Angeles San Francisco etc).

It seems as though the '40 - '60 dates were chosen to include what is generally referred to as the two greatest noirs ever made at opposite ends of the period. Those being The Maltese Falcon (1941) and Orson Welles' Touch Of Evil (1958). Personally, I'm of the opinion that there are many examples of films noir that existed shortly before and shortly after these two, but it's certainly difficult to argue with the quality of the films that were chosen in an attempt to define the period.

Even the Hays Production Code in the early 1930's changed how we'd eventually view these films, as many of the gangster roles were glorified. Due to the code however, it was necessary for the filmmakers to conclude their films with each of the participants receiving their comeuppance requiring the characters to receive moral retribution for their wrongdoings.

The gangster genre was also responsible for a number of other closely related genres and sub-genres such as “prison films” (The Big House – 1930 and Each Dawn I Die - 1938) and “prison-noir” films (Brute Force - 1947). “Spy and Espionage” films such as Lang's Cloak and Dagger (1946), and Hitchcock's Foreign Correspondent (1940) and Torn Curtain (1966) are also a direct result of the genre. Also popularized in the 1940’s and 50’s were “police procedurals”.

The gangster genre even led to series of contemporary films, in which several modern day directors have carved a career - one of which is perhaps the best mob film ever made, Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather (1972). Martin Scorsese has also made a career crafting several of the best mob pictures ever including Mean Streets (1973), Taxi Driver (1976) Goodfellas (1990) and Casino (1995) and appropriately appears in several of the Collection’s special features. Brian De Palma is no stranger to the genre, responsible for Scarface (1983), The Untouchables (1987), and Carlito's Way (1993).


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The Petrified Forest
In the small dusty town of Black Mesa, Arizona, the citizens are gripped with fear. Duke Mantee (played by Humphrey Bogart) and his gang of thugs are on the run from the law, accused of a killing spree that started in Oklahoma City and they are believed to be headed to The Grand Canyon state.

Gabby Maple (played by Bette Davis) is a waitress at a small diner working for her father on the outskirts of town when a young man, Alan Squier (played by Leslie Howard) really, in search of himself more than a specific locale, walks in. The quiet and refined young man is a struggling writer who seems to be at odds with himself for not having accomplished much with his life thus far, but Gabby falls head over heels for him since she too is a struggling artist of sorts and they share a number of personal traits in common.

After carjacking a wealthy family enroute to Phoenix, Duke and his gang, show up at the diner and take all of the occupants, hostage. The café was a predetermined meeting spot for the rest of Duke’s gang and his girl. While they are waiting on the arrival of their cohorts, the hostages, one by one, reveal a number of hidden secrets pouring out their heart and souls retrospectively knowing it might very well be their last chance.

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This taut film noir precursor was based on Robert Sherwood’s 1935 Broadway play and was directed by Archie Mayo. The film would also pair up Davis and Howard (they starred in Of Human Bondage two years earlier). But most importantly, The Petrified Forest was the film responsible for solidifying the career of the great Humphrey Bogart. Though he starred in a dozen or so films prior, most of the roles were rather forgettable. Robert Sherwood wanted Bogart for a smaller part but Howard saw Bogart’s Duke Mantee and the only way he agreed to stay on with the project was to have Bogart play the menacing gang member. Bogart never forgot Leslie Howard’s sense of loyalty and wound up naming his daughter “Leslie” in a show of gratitude. The rest, as they say, is history…

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The Feature: 4.5/5
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Little Caesar
Caesar “Rico” Bandello (played by Edward G. Robinson) and Joe Massara (played by Douglas Fairbanks Jr.) grow tired of holding up nickel and dime joints and gas stations. They decide to head to the “windy city” where Little Caesar (as he eventually becomes known as) quickly joins the Vettori crime family (owners of the Palermo Club), while Joe, who was a dancer, has had enough of gangster life and is hired to dance at Bronze Peacock Club.

It doesn’t take long for Little Caesar to establish himself as a ruthless killer when he guns down the Crime Commissioner during a botched robbery. Rico however, reluctantly draws his longtime buddy Joe into the fray when he decides to rob the rival club where he dances and to use him as the inside man for the job. Rico eventually pushes gang rival Little Arnie Lorch (played by Maurice Black) out of town and winds up in charge if the entire north-side, but his positioning on top is short lived and his fall from grace is as rapid as his initial climb.

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Based on the novel by W.R. Burnett, the film was directed by Mervyn Leroy who was responsible for a number of true classics such as I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang, Random Harvest, Quo Vadis and The Bad Seed. The character of “Little Caesar” is a loosely based thinly disguised portrayal of Al Capone who obviously made his fortune and established his power during the Prohibition era. The federal anti-organized crime law - The Racketeering Influence Corrupt Organization Act, or R.I.C.O. - got its acronym from Edward G. Robinson's character.

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The Feature: 4/5
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Angels With Dirty Faces
Rocky Sullivan (played by James Cagney) and Jerry Connelly (played by Pat O’Brien) are the best of friends. Both boys grow up in the same rough neighborhood doing what they have to, to survive. However, their lives would take very different paths. Rocky would wind up doing time after being caught committing a number of petty thefts and assaults, while his pal Jerry would go on to become a Catholic Priest.

When Rocky is finally released from prison, he shows up back at the old neighborhood and looks up his old pal. He finds an apartment close to Jerry’s church where he rents from a young woman named Laury Ferguson (played by Ann Sheridan) who initially isn’t all that impressed with Rocky and his bullying tactics.

Rocky meets up with an old associate Jim Frazier (played by Humphrey Bogart) who has been holding $100,000 belonging to him which was to be returned to him when he was finally released. Frazier however, no longer wants to pay Rocky the money and sets a plan in motion to kill him instead. Frazier’s plan fails and he finds himself a kidnapping victim, Rocky’s insurance for the safe return of his money.

Jerry however, tired of his children parishioners learning that crime does indeed pay, decides to take on the establishment with the hope of uncovering the corruption among city and police officials. However, the mob bosses have far too much to lose and Jerry becomes an obstacle. After a large gun battle ensues, the priest has but one last request of Rocky.

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Angels With Dirty Faces is a magnificent film which contains one of Cagney’s finest performances. The film was directed by Michael Curtiz (Yankie Doodle Dandy – 1942, Casablanca – 1942 and Mildred Pierce – 1945 just to name a few).

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The Feature: 5/5
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White Heat
Cody Jarrett (played by James Cagney) is head of the Jarrett gang. As they cross the California state line, they hatch and elaborate plan to rob a train carrying over $300,000 in cash. Unfortunately, in the process four employees are killed, setting off an enormous manhunt by Federal Agents. One of the gang members is left behind due an injury he sustained during the robbery which leads to clues as to who committed the elaborate robbery.

With the Treasury Agents hot on their tail, Cody and his gang is feeling the heat and they decide to split up. Cody takes a chance and cops a plea to another robbery which took place in Springfield, Illinois – providing the perfect alibi netting him a one to three prison term. After he is sentenced, Cody learns that his beautiful wife Verna (played by Virginia Mayo) has run off with one of his gang members, Big Ed (played by Steve Cochran) and that the pair are responsible for the death of his beloved mother.

The Treasury Department brings in an undercover agent, Hank Fallon (played by long time film noir staple, Edmond O’Brien) who specializes in infiltration. Their plan is to “plant” the agent under an assumed name (Vic Pardo) as a cellmate with Jarrett with the hope of him offering evidence of the earlier robbery as well as the mastermind fence who is laundering the marked money.

After a life saving incident, Cody takes the bait and befriends the young cellmate treating him as a younger brother. Upon learning of his mother’s death, Cody’s attention now turns and his first order of business is to escape from the prison to seek retribution for the death of his mother. The group makes good their escape but suspicion begins to mount as they plan one final caper.

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The film was directed by Raoul Walsh who was also responsible for a number of legendary classics such as They Died with Their Boots On (1941), High Sierra (1941), They Drive by Night (1940), as well as another film featured in the set The Roaring Twenties (1939). While more of a film noir than a gangster picture (but hey, who’s complaining) this film is a quintessential noir and a must see for anyone who enjoys noir as a movement. The performances of Cagney and O’Brien are, as always, outstanding. On a sad note, Virginia Mayo passed away just last week – just before the release of this set.

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The Feature: 5/5
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The Public Enemy
Tom Powers (played by a very young James Cagney) and Matt Doyle (played by Edward Woods) are the best of friends. They grew up as childhood friends, committing the pettiest of crimes from stealing pocket-watches, escalating to all out, armed robberies.

While none of their jobs have proven very lucrative, with the Prohibition on the horizon, their good friend Paddy (played Robert Emmett O'Connor) lines them up for a liquor robbery, cementing their future and a position working for crime boss, 'Nails' Nathan (played by Leslie Fenton). So impressed is “Nails”, he makes Tom and Matt enforcers for his syndicate, guaranteeing the local pubs and speakeasies buy his beer and not his competitors.

However, “Nails” is killed in a freak accident and suddenly the gang is in turmoil with other local gangs all jockeying for position in the profitable liquor business, resulting in a huge showdown between gang-members.

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The Public Enemy was James Cagney’s breakthrough film, cementing his position as one of the most ruthless gangster performers WB had to offer, a stigma the great actor would spend the rest of his career trying to thwart. Directed by William A. Wellman (Wings - 1927 & The Ox-Bow Incident - 1943), look for Joan Blondell as Matt’s new wife and Jean Harlow as Tom’s on-the-side love interest. It just doesn’t get much better than this.

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The Feature: 5/5
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The Roaring Twenties
After a bomb blast sends three men scrambling for cover in a mortar hole, they would go on to become lifelong friends. George Hally (played by Humphrey Bogart) is the ruthless, rotten to the core tough guy, while Lloyd Hart (played by Jeffrey Lynn) is a recent law school graduate, completely out of his element in the trenches of France. Eddie Bartlett (played by James Cagney) is an average guy who is content to forge out a regular lifestyle but deep down, harbors greater aspirations.

After the war, Eddie learns that the America he returned to is vastly different than the one he left. Unable to find legitimate work, a nightclub owner, Panama (played by Gladys George) convinces Eddie to work for her running booze. He winds up meeting a young girl, Jean (played by Priscilla Lane) he had as a pen pal during the war and eventually falls head over heals for her, but sophisticated and educated, she doesn’t share the same feelings for him.

Eddie and his gang decide to score big and rob a rival gang member of his liquor shipment. Turns out, the thug in charge of the delivery is Eddie’s old wartime pal, George. Eddie and his old pal decide to go into business together, but things become very hot for the pair when Nick Brown (played by Paul Kelly) and his boys want revenge for the liquor heist. Eddie also must cope with his old pal Lloyd who has just run off with his girl.

After the Prohibition is lifted, the racket game is over and Eddie quickly falls from grace, hitting the skids and hitting them hard. But Jean and her new husband Lloyd are in trouble and she comes looking for Eddie to ask one last favor.

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The Roaring Twenties is perhaps the best Prohibition film ever. The film smartly shows the quick rise and fall of these neighborhood empires and the corruption that allowed these vast fortunes and power to mount. The film was also directed by Raoul Walsh (White Heat) and was based on Mark Hellinger’s story, The World Moves On.

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The Feature: 5/5
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As for the packaging, each movie comes as a single disc in a keepcase without an insert, but is adorned with cover art that is representative of the original poster art of the period. The covers are smartly marked with a gray and black Warner Bros. Pictures Gangsters banner with their unique “WB” logo with a very cool art-deco feel. The box showcases the three main actors who appear throughout the collection; Cagney, Bogart and Robinson – this is one great looking package.



Video:
I can’t believe it, I just can’t believe it. I expected these films to look very good, I never thought they could or ever would look like this in a million years. All of these films are fantastic, with White Heat leading the pack and Little Caesar fairing the weakest of the lot. And to put things in proper context, not to say that LC looks “weak”, it’s not. It is just not quite on par with the other five films. The other four movies fall somewhere in the middle.

Let’s start with the best. For those of you who suffer through my classic rants on a regular basis, you’ll often hear me refer to Casablanca, Now, Voyager and The Bad and the Beautiful as three B&W transfers I use as a gauge as among the best available. Recently, I added Strangers On The Train SE when the Hitchcock Collection surfaced last year. Well, you can now add White Heat to the list as one of the best. Words can hardly describe…

The overall image has that velvety smooth image throughout. Blacks couldn’t be any darker, while whites were exceptionally clean and stark. Grayscale was incredibly vast and the levels of contrast and shadow detail were perfect.

Sharpness was amazingly defined, even on longer and wider shots – very impressive. As typical for all of these films, the female close-ups are soft (more noticeable on AWDF and TRT), but is in no way transfer related. There was only a minute amount of fine film grain present and the end result was a gorgeous film-like image with tons of depth and dimension. The print appeared to be immaculate and free of virtually all dust and dirt and also noticeably absent, were traces of vertical scratches. The entire image was rock solid and free of any jitter or shimmer.

The Roaring Twenties is another film that ranks up among the top of the pack – absolutely amazing. Black levels were outstanding and the level of grayscale is as vast as you’ll ever see. Image detail was also very impressive. The disc shows a slight amount of grain but the image is beautiful and film-like. There are a few spotty sequences, presumably, the best they had to work with, but for a 66 year old film, it looks outstanding.

Angels With Dirty Facesis almost in the same league as WH and TRT save for more light speckle and a little bit of shimmer and jitter that appears from time to time.

The remaining three films were scored similarly with four stars and though each shows a few blemishes here and there, these look absolutely amazing as well. The Petrified Forest and The Public Enemy have reasonably good black levels, whites were slightly grayish and grayscale was certainly acceptable. There is a moderate amount of medium to coarse film grain and image definition was usually sharp with only occasional softness creeping in. Some jitter and shimmer here and there with occasional light speckle. The opening of The Public Enemy shows 1909 stock footage which looks pretty rough, no fault of the transfer however.

On the other hand, it would appear the elements for Little Caesar were in a little rougher condition than its other counterparts. It still looks terrific, however, there are more vertical scratches present which can be seen at the 56:00 mark, for example. The level of softness is greater than the other films as well, appearing slightly dupey at times. On its own, it still scores quite high in terms of being impressive, hence my score which is equal to the other two films scoring four stars.

Amazing… absolutely amazing! Collectively, this has to be the greatest effort I have ever seen for a grouping of six films in the (mostly) sixty to seventy year range. Very impressive indeed.

White Heat 5/5 Posted ImagePosted ImagePosted ImagePosted ImagePosted Image
The Roaring Twenties 5/5 Posted ImagePosted ImagePosted ImagePosted ImagePosted Image
Angels With Dirty Faces 4.5/5 Posted ImagePosted ImagePosted ImagePosted ImagePosted Image
The Public Enemy 4/5 Posted ImagePosted ImagePosted ImagePosted Image
The Petrified Forest 4/5 Posted ImagePosted ImagePosted ImagePosted Image
Little Caesar 4/5 Posted ImagePosted ImagePosted ImagePosted Image



Audio:
All of the audio tracks are encoded in DD monaural and for the most part are excellent. The standout once again is the White Heat track. The fidelity and dynamic range on this track just couldn’t be any better as is evidenced by the train at the start of the film and the numerous gunshots throughout the film etc.

Dialogue on all of the tracks is excellent with each and every film which was rendered exceptionally bold and clear. On the Little Caesar track, there was a slight amount of hiss and the dialogue wasn’t quite as clear and crisp as the other films, but was still a fine effort. The dialogue on the The Petrified Forest was also satisfactory but had a tendency to become slightly harsh or edgy at times.

The dynamic range obviously varies from film to film and throughout the course of the collection there are plenty of gunshots to make comparisons with. Again, Little Caesar faired the weakest of the lot with the shots sounding somewhat muffled – at least compared to rest. Angels With Dirty Faces is another standout doing the monaural moniker proud. A fine example of what mono is capable of with a hearty track and plenty of range.

White Heat 5/5 Posted ImagePosted ImagePosted ImagePosted ImagePosted Image
The Roaring Twenties 4.5/5 Posted ImagePosted ImagePosted ImagePosted ImagePosted Image
Angels With Dirty Faces 4.5/5 Posted ImagePosted ImagePosted ImagePosted ImagePosted Image
The Public Enemy 4/5 Posted ImagePosted ImagePosted ImagePosted Image
The Petrified Forest 3.5/5 Posted ImagePosted ImagePosted ImagePosted Image
Little Caesar 3.5/5 Posted ImagePosted ImagePosted ImagePosted Image



Special Features:
Oh my… where do I begin? Those familiar with the WB Legends set of 2003 will have an idea of how these discs are laid out. Besides a number of special features, each disc in the set has a “Warner Night At The Movies” series in an attempt to recreate what would have been an actual theater-going experience, some 75 years ago. All of the Warner Night at The Movies” begin with a brief introduction hosted by Leonard Maltin. He does a terrific job describing each of the features and putting each feature in its proper context. Also interesting as Mr. Maltin mentions a number of obscure anecdotes and how they relate to the film of the period – tidbits that might be easily missed if not looking for them specifically. A wonderful idea and a very impressive list of bonus features starting with:

The Petrified Forest
[*] Commentary By Eric Lax who does an excellent job. Mr. Lax does a great job discussing the film and a history of the shoot as well as offering up some interesting bio info on the cast members. Also discussed is the production code and effect it had on the film’s violent ending. There is hardly a silent moment and Mr. Lax is quite easy to listen to.
[*] The Petrified Forest: Menace In The Desert is a terrific featurette which discusses the film and its history. A number of respected film critics and historians appear such as Bogart biographer Eric Lax, Dr. Drew Casper and film noir author, Alain Silver. The obvious history relating this being Bogart’s breakout film is discussed as well as the gratitude Bogart felt towards Leslie Howard. Also discussed is Bogart’s style of acting (which we’d see many times again after this film) and how Bogart was said to have studied the mannerisms of John Dilinger. Mr. Silver offers up his thoughts on the film and how he feels it fits into the noir canon. Duration: 15:47 minutes.
[*] 1/7/1940 Gulf Screen Radio Broadcast which features Joan Bennett, Tyrone Power and Humphrey Bogart.
[*] Up next is the Theatrical Trailer which is in respectable condition. Duration: 4:15 minutes.

Warner Night At The Movies
[*] Introduction by Leonard Maltin. Duration: 3:11 minutes.
[*] Bullets or Ballets - Theatrical Trailer. Is another Edward G. Robinson/Humphrey Bogart gangster film which hopefully WB will release soon. The trailer is in excellent condition. Duration: 3:00 minutes.
[*] Newsreel talks about two huge newsworthy events of the period including the abdication of England’s King Edward VIII as well as the landslide re-election of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Duration: 3:22 minutes.
[*] Rythmitis is a Vitaphone musical short which stars Hal Le Roy and Busby Berkeley favorite Toby Wing. Duration: 19:34 minutes.
[*] The Coo Coo Nut Grove is a Vitaphone - Merrie Melodies short which is a collection of celebrity caricatures showing them in either human or animal form. This is in terrific shape as well. Duration: 6:44 minutes.


Little Caesar
[*] Commentary by Richard Jewell. This is another good effort and is an easy listen by Mr. Jewell. A number of symbolisms with respect to gangsters of the period are discussed. His dialogue stays mostly specific to screen sequences explaining each scene in great detail. He also veers off into a bio of Edward G. Robinson.
[*] Little Caesar: End Of Rico, Beginning of the Antihero. Robert Sklar, Martin Scorsese, Alain Silver, Andrew Sarris and Drew Casper appear here. A number of items are discussed including the film and how it compares to other gangster films of the era and how the Depression and Prohibition eras provided a perfect opportunity for filmmakers. Also discussed is the Warner Brothers Studio and how they specialized in gangster films as well as the heat they took for the glamorization of “Little Caesar” and its thinly disguised portrayal of Al Capone including the studio’s deflection of the bad PR. Duration: 17:06 minutes.
[*] Re-release Forward in an attempt to de-glorify these characters this is an opening prologue warning the viewers that the characters we are about to see are problems within society that must be dealt with. Duration: 00:43 seconds.
[*] Theatrical Trailer which is in remarkably good condition save for some minor hiss. Duration: 2:08 minutes.

Warner Night At The Movies
[*] Introduction by Leonard Maltin. Duration: 4:05 minutes.
[*] Theatrical Trailer: Five Star Final which is in decent shape. Duration: 1:54 minutes.
[*] Newsreel hosts an interview with the girlfriend of slain racketeer, “Legs Diamond”. Duration: 1:44 minutes.
[*] The Hard Guy is a Vitaphone short, one-man play which stars a very young Spencer Tracy at the start of his career. Duration: 6:25 minutes.
[*] Lady Play Your Mandolin is an early (1931) B&W short starring Foxy which is in very good shape. A terrific inclusion. Duration: 7:14 minutes.


White Heat
[*] Commentary with Dr. Drew Casper. Although there’s no denying Mr. Casper’s knowledge of classic film, this commentary is not scene specific. He offers up an incredible amount of information relating to Cagney and the film as well as the formation of Cagney’s own production company, but like Mr. Casper’s commentary on The Asphalt Jungle, he is all over the map. Very informative, but does not fall into the category of the easiest to listen to, commentaries.
[*] White Heat: Top Of The World. Drew Casper, Martin Scorsese, Alain Silver, Robert Sklar, Dr. Lincoln Hurst, Mark Vieira, Andrew Sarris, Eric Lax are among the participants. They spend a great deal of time discussing the style of the film including how Cagney incorporated many of his previous roles into White Heat. Also discussed is the turmoil which existed between WB and studio head, Jack Warner. There is also an interesting discussion as to what the illness is that afflicts Cody Jarrett. There is also a terrific interview with Virginia Mayo taken from recent, but archival footage. Interesting. Duration: 16:51 minutes.
[*] Lastly the Theatrical Trailer is included which is in outstanding condition. Duration: 2:24 minutes.

Warner Night At The Movies
[*] Introduction by Leonard Maltin. Duration: 2:57 minutes.
[*] The Fountainhead Theatrical Trailer starring Gary Cooper and newcomer Patricia Neal, which is in terrific condition. Duration: 2:17 minutes.
[*] Newsreel which features the Presidential election of 1948, Harry S. Truman showing his Washington Inauguration. Duration: 2:57 minutes.
[*] So You Think You’re Not Guilty is a WB Joe Mc Doakes short starring George O’Hanlon as the average American who always winds up behind the eight-ball. Duration: 10:29 minutes.
[*] Homeless Hare is a Bugs Bunny - Chuck Jones MM short from 1950 which looks very nice. ”Okay Hercules, you asked for it”. great stuff. Duration: 7:04 minutes.


The Public Enemy
[*] 1954 Re-release forward is identical to the Little Caesar forward Duration: 00:43 seconds
[*] Commentary by Robert Sklar who is very well qualified to discuss the film in light of the book he authored about James Cagney, Humphrey Bogart and John Garfield. He spends a great of time comparing the variations of the Beer And Blood novel in what was used throughout the film. His style is more screen specific. Mr. Sklar does an admirable job and does his best to keep things interesting.
[*] Beer And Blood: Enemies Of The Public features the same group of participants discuss the elements that were taken from the novel, Beer And Blood. Also discussed were the casting choices of Cagney and Woods. Duration: 19:34 minutes.
[*] Theatrical Trailer which is in amazing condition Duration: 00:47 seconds.

Warner Night At The Movies
[*] Introduction by Leonard Maltin. Duration: 3:14 minutes.
[*] Blonde Crazy Theatrical Trailer which is in very shape. Duration: 2:34 minutes.
[*] Newsreel features the female athletes chosen to participate in the 1932 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. Duration: 1:32 minutes.
[*] The Eyes Have It is a Vitaphone short from 1931, staring Edgar Bergen and his wooden partner, Charlie McCarthy which is in respectable condition. Duration: 9:54 minutes.
[*] Smile, Darn Ya, Smile is another early B&W MM short from 1931 and also stars Foxy. The short closes with “so long folks” before “that’s all folks” caught on. A fabulous inclusion which is in terrific shape. Duration: 6:56 minutes.


Angels With Dirty Faces
[*] Commentary With Dana Polan. Professor Polan turns in another commentary which is worth your time. Mr. Polan changes direction with this feature and goes into a technical and style type of discussion i.e. featuring camera angles, lighting, dialogue delivery etc. He is non-stop over the duration of the entire film, staying mainly on course scene by scene.
[*] Angels With Dirty Faces: Whaddya Hear? Whaddya Say? This is another fabulous documentary which features many of the usual suspects from the previous documentaries plus one of my favorites, Rudy Behlmer. The focus is now the Production Code and the compromises that were made for the film to meet standards. The cast also unleash a vast amount of information relating to director, Michael Curtiz. A terrific addition to complement this classic film. Duration: 22:15 minutes.
[*] Up next is a Lux Radio Theater Broadcast from 05/22/1939 starring James Cagney and Pat O’Brien.
[*] The Theatrical Trailer is also included and is in extremely good condition. Duration: 3:19 minutes.

Warner Night At The Movies
[*] Introduction by Leonard Maltin. Duration: 4:19 minutes.
[*] Boy Meets Girl Theatrical Trailer for another Cagney/O’Brien teaming is also included and is in pretty decent shape. Duration: 2:46 minutes.
[*] The Newsreel footage highlights the signing of the Munich Peace Pact as well as a speech from President Roosevelt pleading for world peace at the site of the 1939 World’s Fair which was still under construction. Duration: 2:05 minutes.
[*] Out Where The Stars Begin is a Technicolor short two-reeler about a tyrannical director said to parody Michael Curtiz and gives us a glimpse at some of the stars of the film showing up for work. A terrific and fitting inclusion which is in amazing condition. Duration: 19:19 minutes.
[*] Porky And Daffy is a Bob Clampett animated B&W Vitaphone/LT short which looks amazing. Lots of Daffy woo hoos in this one – terrific. Duration: 7:23 minutes.


The Roaring Twenties
[*] Commentary by Lincoln Hurst is another solid effort. Mr. Hurst also does a tremendous job at pouring out an enormous amount of information relating to the film and it’s cast members.
[*] The Roaring Twenties: The World Moves On is the documentary for the feature film which includes the usual suspects from the previous features. The feature starts with a discussion regarding the time period and how the country was recovering from the Great Depression as well as the affects of the Prohibition era. They also discuss the three stars and how their characters vastly differed from each other. Duration: 17:22 minutes.
[*] The Theatrical Trailer is in excellent condition. Duration: 3:28 minutes.

Warner Night At The Movies
[*] Introduction by Leonard Maltin. Duration: 4:43 minutes.
[*] Theatrical Trailer Each Dawn I Die. The trailer is in satisfactory condition – looking slightly dupey. Let’s hope this film sees a WB release soon. Duration: 1:43 minutes.
[*] The Newsreel covers Two World’s Fairs as well as a Royal visit to Canada and the U.S. Duration: 2:03 minutes.
[*] All Girl Revue is a WB short which features a very young June Allyson. The short is in pretty good shape. Duration: 8:08 minutes.
[*] The Great Library Misery is a short and part of The Grouch Club series. This is interesting in that you’ll get to see the real Elmer Fudd, Arthur Q. Bryan. This is in very good condition as well. Duration: 11:28 minutes.
[*] Thugs With Dirty Mugs is a Tex Avery MM short which is, appropriately, a parody of gangster movies and you’ll see a distinct resemblance of Edward G. Robinson as the dog leader. Duration: 7:57 minutes.

Unfortunately, in an attempt to get this review posted before the street date, I had to skim through the commentaries and a few of the included featurettes, but count on spending several hours with each disc to go through everything comprehensively. Each of the “Night At The Movies” sequences has a “play-all” feature. All of the features that have been added are a terrific complement to the films indeed. A magnificent job, WB…!!

Special Features: 5/5
Posted ImagePosted ImagePosted ImagePosted ImagePosted Image

**Special Features rated for the quality of supplements, not the quantity**



Final Thoughts:
Well, if you’ve hung on this long, we’re almost there... The Warner Brothers Gangsters Collection is similar to their Film Noir collection from 2004 in that the films were not only chosen wisely, but the variety of gangster films that have been included clearly define a genre; a style and movement that has led to some of the best and most celebrated films of our time.

Aside from six truly outstanding films, WB has complemented each and every one of them with an assortment of remarkable special features and has delivered yet again, presentations that are sure to please each and every member here. Considering the importance of the gangster genre to WB, this set was a long time coming but I can tell you if anything was ever worth the wait, this was it. Here’s hoping Volume #2 and #3 are soon to follow and includes the likes of: The Big House (1930) I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang (1932) G-Men (1935) Bullets or Ballots (1936) Marked Woman (1937) Each Dawn I Die (1939), Baby Face (1933), Invisible Stripes (1939), King of the Underworld (1939), San Quentin (1937) and Two Seconds (1932).

Without question, this set is one of my favorite releases since the inception of the format and I’d place it among my top two or three releases - ever. On Tuesday, don’t walk – run to your local retailer. You won’t be disappointed...!

Overall Rating: 5/5 (not an average)
Posted ImagePosted ImagePosted ImagePosted ImagePosted Image

Very Highly Recommended…!!!



Release Date: January 25th, 2005
My Top 25 Noirs:

25. 711 Ocean Drive (1950), 24. Odds Against Tomorrow (1959), 23. Desperate (1947), 22. Pushover (1954), 21. The Blue Dahlia (1946), 20. The File on Thelma Jordon (1949), 19. He Ran All the Way (1951), 18. The Asphalt Jungle (1950), 17. The Killing (1956), 16. I Walk Alone (1948),...

#2 of 106 John Hodson

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Posted January 24 2005 - 05:29 AM

Herb, you've just made my day. Thanks Warners - top of the world...
So many films, so little time...
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#3 of 106 Ronald Epstein

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Posted January 24 2005 - 05:39 AM

Herb,

So much great effort put in by Warner
Brothers for this boxed set.

So much great effort put into your review.

I am thankful for both.

Ronald J Epstein
Home Theater Forum co-owner

 

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#4 of 106 Haggai

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Posted January 24 2005 - 05:44 AM

Awesome review, Herb! You really pulled out all the stops for this one. Now, Amazon, come on and get it to me.

#5 of 106 SteveGon

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Posted January 24 2005 - 05:52 AM

Pardon my drool...

#6 of 106 Rodney

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Posted January 24 2005 - 05:55 AM

All I can say is...WOW! I cannot wait to get my hands on this collection.

Thanks for a great review.
-Rodney

#7 of 106 LorenzoL

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Posted January 24 2005 - 06:50 AM

Thanks for the review Herb and thanks for WB for releasing this wonderful box set.

Made it Ma! Top of the World!

#8 of 106 Eric Peterson

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Posted January 24 2005 - 07:16 AM

I'm waiting impatiently for my shipping notification. Although DVDPlanet hasn't been very regular with E-mail and often my discs show-up before the E-mail. I'm holding out hope for it to be on my doorstep tonight?

Is "Thugs With Dirty Mugs" the cartoon where Bugs tries to hide Eddie G. in a trunk and keeps dragging him up and down the stairs ending with Eddie saying "Get me away from that Crazy Rabbitt?"

#9 of 106 Opi

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Posted January 24 2005 - 07:25 AM

My has been shipped already by DVD Soon and is on its way to Germany. Can't wait to lay my hands on it.

Nice review btw Posted Image
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#10 of 106 Greg_S_H

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Posted January 24 2005 - 07:49 AM

There couldn't be a finer collection of movies in one box, in my opinion. This should definitely be in everyone's collection.

#11 of 106 Aaron Silverman

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Posted January 24 2005 - 08:40 AM

Awesome review, Herb, except -- I'm not sure that Taxi Driver fits this category. Maybe you should replace it with Once Upon A Time In America instead. Posted Image
"How wonderful it will be to have a leader unburdened by the twin horrors of knowledge and experience." -- Mr. Wick

#12 of 106 Patrick McCart

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Posted January 24 2005 - 09:20 AM

Quote:
Is "Thugs With Dirty Mugs" the cartoon where Bugs tries to hide Eddie G. in a trunk and keeps dragging him up and down the stairs ending with Eddie saying "Get me away from that Crazy Rabbitt?"

That's "Racketeer Rabbit."



Wow, after reading this review and DVD Beaver's, I'm itching to get the box set.


By the way, Herb... do you think you could get some screenshots from the 6 cartoons? I'm wondering if the two B&W Merrie Melodies are restored versions.

#13 of 106 Deepak Shenoy

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Posted January 24 2005 - 10:06 AM

DVDPlanet hasn't shipped mine yet Posted Image This set includes some titles that I have waited a long time for and it looks like the DVDs are worth the wait.

Thanks Herb for one of the most comprehensive reviews I have seen. It is a great idea to include a brief background on the history of the films as well as some interesting trivia.

-D

#14 of 106 Douglas R

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Posted January 24 2005 - 10:12 AM

Great review Herb. My set is in the post and I can't wait to get these. I still argue with people over the meaning of the final scene of Angels with Dirty Faces!

#15 of 106 Jonny_L

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Posted January 24 2005 - 10:31 AM

That was an excellent review Herb. Posted Image Posted Image

Actually it kind of makes me sad I don't have a hot DLP projector setup to take advantage of these classics. So many older movies I've never seen and it would be ashame to have to settle for a first experience watching them on a TV.
Jonathan
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#16 of 106 rich_d

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Posted January 24 2005 - 10:43 AM

Herb,

Impressive review. Lot of effort there. Posted Image

I think it is fair to say that you all of us psyched to get this set in our mitts.

Hearing about that Fountainhead trailer ... I'd love to see Warner release The Fountainhead, it if only for the terrific sets that film has.

#17 of 106 Lars Vermundsberget

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Posted January 24 2005 - 11:11 AM

Should DVD Planet be trusted with orders at all? In my opinion no, but I haven't used them in a year at least. There is an old thread about that in the retailer feedback section.

My strongest impression of "Eddie G" does in fact come from Bugs Bunny. Lately I've experienced that Bugs' impersonation was very much on the mark. Posted Image

I'm looking forward to this. Posted Image

#18 of 106 Jason Adams

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Posted January 24 2005 - 11:40 AM

I saw The Roaring Twenties on Turner Classic Movies a while back...I loved the movie. I would probably buy it...and I would assume that you can buy these films seperately?

#19 of 106 MarcoBiscotti

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Posted January 24 2005 - 01:49 PM

I was gearing myself up for this, but...

Posted Image

#20 of 106 Michael Elliott

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Posted January 24 2005 - 01:58 PM

Excellent review Herb.

Behind the Lewton set, this was my most wanted title of the year so I'm very happy it's up to the usual Warner standards. However, it does make me a little sad to see the other majors not bothering too much with their classics while Warner has pumped out a wonderful box each and every month for nearly the past year.

I had no idea there were so many extras included in this set. I must have missed the "Night at the Movies" segment.

I'm embarrassed to say I've never seen the B&W version of ANGELS. I first watched this film around the age of 10 and it took a couple years before I realized this was supposed to be a B&W film. I always told people ANGELS was the ugliest color film I had ever seen. :b





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