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DVD Reviews

HTF DVD REVIEW: Warner Bros. Pictures Gangster Collection Vol. 4



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#1 of 6 OFFLINE   Ken_McAlinden

Ken_McAlinden

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  • Real Name:Kenneth McAlinden
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Posted October 31 2008 - 05:25 PM

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Warner Bros. Pictures Gangster Collection Vol. 4

The Little Giant (1933)/ Kid Galahad (1937)/ The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse (1938)/ Invisible Stripes (1939)/ Larceny, Inc. (1942)/ Public Enemies: The Golden Age of the Gangster Film (2008)


The Films

The Little Giant (1933 – Warner Bros. - 76 minutes)

Directed By: Roy Del Ruth

Starring: Edward G. Robinson, Mary Astor, Helen Vinson, Russell Hopton, Albert J. 'Al' Daniels, Kenneth Thomson, Shirley Grey, Berton Churchill, Don Dillaway, Louise Mackintosh

Edward G. Robinson plays notorious Chicago gangster "Bugs" Ahern who sees the writing on the wall after Roosevelt is elected, cashes in his chips before prohibition is repealed, and heads west to live a life of high class leisure in Santa Barbara, CA. His awkward adjustment to a life of polo, modern art, and society functions is aided somewhat by friendly landlord Ruth Wayburn (Astor) and loyal but befuddled friend Al Daniels (Hopton). When he falls for Polly Cass (Vinson) and meets her high-society family, he learns that rackets can be more crooked in depression-era board rooms than they were in prohibition-era bar rooms.

While far from the best of Robinson's gangster comedies, The Little Giant does hold the distinction of being the first, coming only two years after Robinson's breakthrough role in Little Caesar and finding him playing an almost identical character in a plot modulated away from "rise and fall" tragedy and towards "fish out of water" comedy. The film is a fairly standard fast-paced Warner programmer the likes of which they were churning out with regularity in the 30s. Robinson's characterization and the film's novel for the time concept are strong enough to overcome the predictability of the plot and lack of depth to make it on balance an entertaining time-passer. Its super-efficient 76 minute running time helps matters as well. While not a home run, this film at least laid the groundwork for Robinson's bigger and better gangster comedies to come over the next decade including A Slight Case of Murder, and this set's own Larceny Inc.. There are a few moments of surprising frankness in the dialog that will amuse fans of pre-code Hollywood films.

Kid Galahad (1937 – Warner Bros. - 102 minutes)

Directed By: Michael Curtiz

Starring: Edward G. Robinson, Bette Davis, Humphrey Bogart, Wayne Morris, Jane Bryan, Harry Carey, William Haade

Edward G. Robinson plays hard-nosed boxing promoter Nick Donati, who dismisses his top boxer after he loses a fight to another fighter managed by his crooked rival, Turkey Morgan (Bogart). Nick is almost ready to give up the fight game, when he stumbles across giant man-child bell hop named Ward Guisenberry (Morris). Working at a party hosted by Nick, Ward punches out heavyweight champ Chuck McGraw (Haade) when he directs a rude comment towards Nick's long-suffering girlfriend, "Fluff" (Davis). With Fluff's encouragement, Nick becomes convinced that Ward has potential as a fighter, and after some success, the press dub him "Kid Galahad". Ward advances towards a title shot, but he risks losing Nick's backing when both Fluff and Nick's sheltered kid sister, Marie (Jane) fall for him.

Kid Galahad is one of the best boxing films of the 1930s in large part due to its unusually complex screenplay which balances multiple plotlines, subtexts, and even genre nods. These varied elements are held together by strong lead performances by Robinson and Davis and the assured direction of veteran Warner director Michael Curtiz. Robinson's take on Donati plays towards audiences' expectations of his tough-guy image, but adds layers of complexity as his surface insensitivity gradually gives way to his inner insecurities. This was Davis' second film with Warner Bros. following her self-imposed "European exile", and she and the studio were clearly playing nice based on her excellent performance in a very good role that initially seems slight but reveals hidden depths as the film progresses. Morris is perfectly cast as the prospective champ, projecting the right amount of naivete to make the part work and the right amount of athleticism to be convincing as a heavyweight contender.

Kid Galahad was remade 25 years later as a vehicle for Elvis Presley, and this original 1937 version was frequently re-titled "The Battling Bellhop" for broadcast airings.

The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse (1938 – Warner Bros. – 87 minutes)

Directed By: Anatole Litvak

Starring: Edward G. Robinson, Claire Trevor, Humphrey Bogart, Allen Jenkins, Donald Crisp, Gale Page

Edward G. Robinson plays the title character in The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse. He is a high society Manhattan physician whose scientific interest in the physiology of criminals leads him down a twisted path. He pulls off a series of jewel thefts, and then, with unwitting help from his friends on the police force, uses the loot to meet an attractive fence named Jo Keller (Trevor) and a gang of thieves. Impressed by his cool demeanor with the police, the gang quickly lets him in and ultimately accepts him as their leader, much to the chagrin of vicious thug 'Rocks' Valentine (Bogart) who refuses to submit to Clitterhouse's required medical tests and is jealous of the attentions Jo gives him. Once Clitterhouse has collected his data, he announces his plans for leaving the gang, but Rocks has plans of his own with lethal consequences.

This film, adopted from a successful stage play, is a bizarre but nonetheless interesting hybrid of multiple genres including crime, comedy, and sci-fi horror. Robinson is in a gangster film , but employs no traces of his familiar tough guy persona, instead playing a highly educated sophisticate who descends into a world of hardened criminals. Bogart plays his usual vicious thug role, but gets a few interesting modulations to play, especially as Rocks' attempt to blackmail Clitterhouse plays out. The screenplay, adapted by John Huston and John Wexley from the play by Barré Lyndon, cleverly made the fence character a woman, which adds a layer of sexual jealousy to Rocks' motivation which makes him more interesting although still a ling way from sympathetic.

Director Litvak and cinematographer Tony Gaudio pull out all of the German Expressionistic stops for a very moody and shadowy atmosphere which works equally well during a night-time heist set-piece and a POV sequence from a character who has been poisoned.

The bizarrely contrived ending which is equal parts disturbing and amusing seems to be a slap in the face to one of the basic tenets of the Motion Picture Production Code. Not that there's anything wrong with that...

Invisible Stripes (1939 – Warner Bros. – 81 minutes)

Directed By: Lloyd Bacon

Starring: George Raft, Jane Bryan, William Holden, Humphrey Bogart, Flora Robson

Invisible Stripes is the story of Cliff Taylor (Raft), an ex-convict released on probation who is determined to go straight. He is welcomed back into the home of his mother (Robson) and his little brother, Tim (Holden), but he finds it hard to hold a job due to the mistrust of his employers and the distaste of his co-workers towards ex-cons. Despite professional set-backs, Cliff keeps trying both because his parole terms require him be working and because he knows that Tim is watching him and at risk of turning to crime himself to escape his lower class trappings and provide for his fiancee, Peggy (Bryan). When Cliff senses that Tim's money frustrations have come to a head, though, he desperately turns to his former cellmate, Chuck Martin, and his criminal associates for a way to raise some quick money.

Invisible Stripes is a fairly straightforward social drama in the 1930s Warner Bros. tradition. While George Raft, an actor who never suffered from an excess of on-screen personality, is a bit stiff in the leading role and way too old for the part, the film succeeds because of an exceptionally strong group of supporting performances. Stage great Flora Robson slums a bit, but manages to create a memorable character in the thankless role of Cliff's supportive and long-suffering mother. An impossibly young looking William Holden makes a positive impression as the hot-headed kid brother that builds on his breakthrough performance in Golden Boy a few months earlier. Most significantly, Humphrey Bogart is given a part that transcends his typical one-dimensional low-lifes and suggests the charisma that would lead him to become one of the biggest movie stars of the 1940s.

Director LLoyd Bacon constructs the film carefully and efficiently, with a straightforward dramatic first forty minutes that suddenly shifts into high gear with three major action set-pieces in the last forty minutes. There is little humor in the piece, although there is one good inside joke where Humphrey Bogart's character is shown to be walking out of a screening of a theater showing the film You Can't Get Away with Murder, a film from earlier in 1939 which featured the real-life Bogart in the lead.

Larceny Inc. (1942 – Warner Bros. - 95 minutes)

Directed By: Ray Enright

Edward G. Robinson, Jane Wyman, Broderick Crawford, Jack Carson, Anthony Quinn, Edward Brophy, Harry Davenport, John Qualen

In Larceny Inc., the fast-talking J. Chalmers "Pressure" Maxwell (Robinson) and the dim-witted Jug Martin (Crawford) are released from Sing Sing prison and quickly reconnect with their former criminal associate Weepy Davis (Brophy). Pressure is determined to go straight and open up a dog track in Florida, but when the New York bank refuses him a loan, he devises a plan to get his money from them anyway. He purchases a luggage store adjacent to the bank, and puts Jug and Weepy to work tunneling under the floor to the bank's vault. Despite their best efforts not to do any business, and partly because of the stealth promotional interference of Denny Costello (Wyman), a family friend for which Pressure has a paternal affection, they find themselves succeeding in the luggage business. Unfortunately, by the time Pressure, Jug, and Weepy have figured this out, a vicious thug named Leo Dexter (Quinn) gets wind of their bank plot, escapes from Sing Sing, and insists at gunpoint that they go through with it.

Larceny Inc. is a very amusing comedy that satirizes not just crime stories, but the whole capitalist system as well, suggesting that certain questionable behaviors are equally effective in the legitimate and criminal worlds. The social satire is not laid on too thick, though, and there are a lot of easy laughs to be had along the way. Robinson, Crawford, and Brophy make a wonderful trio of stooges straight from Damon Runyonville, and director Enright shows just the right touch to keep the heavier aspects, such as Anthony Quinn's Leo, dark enough to present real menace, but not so dark as to undermine the overall comic tone.

Keep an eye out for a very young Jackie Gleason in an almost wordless scene stealing supporting role as a soda jerk in a drug store.

Public Enemies: The Golden Age of the Gangster Film (2008 – Warner Bros. - 106 minutes)

Directed By: Constantine Nasr

The most significant supplement in this collection is the excellent documentary Public Enemies: The Golden Age of the Gangster Film. Due to its substantial nature and its packaging on its own disc in its own separate Amaray case, I figured it was worth assessing as a title on its own rather than just as an extra. The core of the documentary consists of a number of interviews with an international collection of film scholars, including many of the participants in the commentaries on this set, and filmmakers attuned to the genre such as Martin Scorsese and Nicholas Pileggi. The interviews are also complimented by archival first person accounts from important filmmakers in the genre such as directors Mervyn LeRoy and Raoul Walsh and actress Joan Leslie. Generous amounts of clips and behind the scenes photos are used to illustrate the films being discussed. The interviews and clips are held together by off-screen narration by Alec Baldwin.

This documentary offers a fine history of the genre as well as a broader look at the history of crime on film. This is quite a range of years to cover when one considers that it begins with the first substantial narrative feature, The Great Train Robbery from 1903.

It follows the genre roughly chronologically after that beginning with significant silent films and taking quite a bit of time to cover the breakthrough "pre-code" talkies "Little Caesar", "The Public Enemy", and "Scarface". Other topics include the adaptations of the genre that were necessary to address both its fundamental limitations and the enforcement of the Production Code beginning in 1934. These included the casting of gangster stars as agents of the law in films like G-Men, infusing the gangsters with consciences and forcing them to confront even worse gangsters (enter Humphrey Bogart as Warner Bros. go-to "worse-guy"), and genre-bending twists like gangster comedies. Eventually, the documentary discusses the influence of the Golden Age gangster films on subsequent features ranging from postwar noirs to modern-day crime films such as Goodfellas, Once Upon a Time in America, and The Departed. Interestingly, no mention is made of The Godfather and its sequels. Paramount generally resists having those films lumped in with other "gangster" pictures as if the genre were some kind of pejorative. If anything, this documentary makes a pretty good case that the genre is flexible enough to encompass everything from low comedies, to hard-boiled action programmers, to Oscar-worthy epic family dramas like Coppola's films.

Along the way, the film also offers biographical and professional notes on significant personalities both in front of and behind the camera involved with the production of these films.

The Video

All of the vintage films are presented on DVD with black and white 4:3 transfers appropriate for their original theatrical presentations. The Public Enemies: The Golden Age of the Gangster Film documentary is presented at an aspect ratio filling the entire 16:9 enhanced frame with film clips usually pillarboxed or letterboxed as necessary to reflect their theatrical presentation.

The Little Giant, the oldest title in the set, carries a bit more age-related softness than some of the newer titles, but looks quite remarkable for a 1933 vintage film. Kid Galahad also appears a shade softer, a bit grainier, and displays a little more visible wear and tear than the other films in the set, but that does not mean it looks bad. The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse, Invisible Stripes, and Larceny, Inc. all look like they were transferred from a nice low contrast element very close to the original negative. Compression is very good on all titles with only minor artifacts during some of the grainier passages. High contrast edge ringing is minor to non-existent. All in all this is a very impressive collection of transfers of these vintage films. The quality of the Public Enemies... documentary is outstanding, although the vintage film clips and archival interviews demonstrate some expected variation in quality.

The Audio

All of the films are presented with Dolby Digital 1.0 mono tracks from reasonably high fidelity sources taking into account the age of the films, although dynamics and frequency range are not quite as wide on The Little Giant as they are on the subsequent titles. Noise reduction artifacts are minimal and non-intrusive, even at high volumes. The Public Enemies... documentary is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo.

Extras

All of the feature films in this collection come with an audio commentary from film scholars, their own theatrical trailers, and a full complement of vintage featurettes via the "Warner Night at the Movies" feature. The feature length documentary: Public Enemies: The Golden Age of the Gangster Film is presented on its own disc and is covered along with the features above. It also has a series of bonus gangster-themed cartoons which are described below. A detailed breakdown of the bonus features on each disc follows. All are presented in black and white 4:3 video unless otherwise indicated:

The Little Giant

Commentary by Daniel Bubbeo and John McCarty offers a fairly informative commentary, but after establishing the film's place in history and its significance as a pioneering pre-code gangster comedy, they spend a lot more time placing it in context and discussing other films in the genre. This is somewhat understandable given the slight nature of the film itself which does not lend itself to deeper analysis.

Theatrical Trailer for the James Cagney film Hard to Handle (2:22)

Vintage newsreel (3:15) Concerning the end of prohibition with a little review of its history through archival footage and narration

Use Your Imagination (17:32) is a Hal LeRoy musical two-reeler where he plays a daydreaming kid who has trouble holding on to a job. Needless to say, his on the job daydreaming involves a lot of singing and rubber legged dancing production numbers.

The Dish Ran Away with the Spoon (7:30) is a vintage Harman-Ising Merrie Melodies cartoon in which a set of anthropomorphized kitchen utensils and food cavort, sing, and dance through a number of sight gags in a kitchen. I am not usually crazy about these sort of cartoons, but the gags in this one are funnier than average, and there is some wild and funny animation.

Theatrical trailer (2:17) is a straightforward film clips and titles trailer with some interesting graphics at the beginning.

Kid Galahad

The Commentary by Art Simon and Robert Sklar is a well-balanced track with a little bit of analysis concerning the films subtext and where the film fits in the cycles of gangster and boxing films and a lot of well-researched behind the scenes information about the film, its cast, and its crew.

"It's Love I'm After" Theatrical Trailer (2:56) is a promo for the Bette Davis - Leslie Howard romantic comedy.

Vintage newsreel (5:07) is an interminable set of repetitive footage, most of it B-roll material of "wanted" flyers being printed for three gangsters named Geary, Oley, and Crowley. There is some footage and dialog from J. Edgar Hoover during the first minute, but after that it gets pretty dull.

Alibi Mark (13:18) is a short from the Floyd Gibbons "Your True Adventures" series featuring a dramatic reenactment of a story where an innocent hobo almost gets lynched which features the actual man who experienced it in a cameo at the end.

Postal Union (22:01) is a Vitaphone two-reeler in which Georgie Price plays a goofball Postal Union employee who irks customers who call on him for a number of wacky services, many which present opportunities for music, dancing, and comedy routines.

Egghead Rides Again (7:24) is a Technicolor "Merrie Melodies" Tex Avery cartoon in which Egghead's dreams of being a cowboy are tested in a series of comic trials when he applies for employment at the "Bar None" ranch.

I Wanna Be a Sailor (7:03) is another Technicolor Merrie Melodies Tex Avery cartoon in which a young parrot upsets his mother when he announces he wants to be a sailor like his absentee father. His plan to run away at sea are somewhat abetted by a duckling he drafts as his crewman, but a rain storm makes things more difficult than he anticipated.

Porky's Super Service (7:15) is one of only two Looney Tunes Porky Pig cartoons directed by the legendary Disney animator Ub Iwerks in between his stint at his own studio and his return to Disney. His primary credited animators are future directors Bob Clampett and Chuck Jones. Gags revolve around Porky trying to satisfy customers at his service station with the longest sequence involving him being aggravated by an infant that is supposed to be sleeping in the back of his mother's car.

Theatrical trailer (3:28) features a considerable amount of unique promotional footage of broadcaster Granville Owen (later known as "Jeff York" including when he played "King of the River" Mike Fink in the Disney Davy Crockett television series) encouraging Bette Davis and Edward G. Robinson to talk about the film in character as the people they play. This is the most interesting trailer in this box set.

The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse

Commentary by Dr. Drew Casper and Richard Jewell features the least collaborative commentary duo in the set. casper and Jewell split up the commentary into large chunks where they cover specific topics, but do not interact with each other. It sounds like they may have been recorded separately, but Jewell does refer to comments made by Casper from time to time. Casper offers his usual breathless shot by shot analysis of certain scenes, including the opening sequence during which he intersperses bits of analysis with descriptions of the on-screen action so specific they could be mistaken for a descriptive video service track. I imagine his college lectures are quite entertaining. Jewell takes a more measured pace for his topics, offering his well-researched notes in a straightforward manor.

”Racket Busters” theatrical trailer (2:36) promotes the Humphrey Bogart and George Brent film

Vintage newsreel (2:51) is a propaganda piece about the need for funding of the FBI

Night Intruder (11:11) is another short from the Floyd Gibbons “Your True Adventures" series re-enacting a story of how a woman kept her cool when she discovered a burglar in her home during a bridge party.

Toyland Casino (19:07) is a musical two-reeler in which a group of juvenile performers put on an elaborate show in a fancy hotel. It looks like they rounded up every showbiz kid in 1930s Hollywood who was not already working for Hal Roach. Unfortunately the sound is pretty muffled and distorted.

Count Me Out (7:24) is a Technicolor Merrie Melodies Hardaway and Dalton cartoon in which “Egghead” sends away for some mail order boxing lessons so he can fulfill hid fantasy of taking on the champ.

11/2/1941 Lady Esther Screen Guild Theater Broadcast (29:08)Is an audio-only radio adaptation/condensation of the film featuring Edward G. Robinson, Claire Trevor, and Lloyd Nolan. It is presented with chapter stops every three minutes, but no ability to pause, fast forward, or rewind the track.

6/5/1944 Gulf Screen Guild Theater Broadcast (27:52) is another radio performance of the film, this time featuring Edward G. Robinson, Humphrey Bogart, and Marsha Hunt. It is hosted by and co-stars Roger Pryor. It uses the same script as was used for the Lady Esther broadcast from three year earlier. It is presented with chapter stops every three minutes, but no ability to pause, fast forward, or rewind the track.

Theatrical trailer (3:10) is a pretty standard text and clips assemblage.

Invisible Stripes

Commentary by Alain Silver and James Ursini. Silver and Ursini talk a lot about the Production Code. They also discuss how tis and other gangster films presaged the postwar noir era. While they do offer occasional biographical notes on the filmmmakers, they do not do this to the extent that most of the other commentators in this set do, which is fine since the Bogart and Robincosn biographical details get a little repetitive when you listen to all of these tracks close together.

"You Can't Get Away with Murder" Theatrical Trailer (2:17) - This Humphrey Bogart/Dead End Kids film is referenced on a marquee sign outside a theater from which Bogart emerges in a scene from Invisible Stripes

Vintage Newsreel (1:04) with silent footage showing New York racketeer Jimmy Hines being released from the Manhattan detention complex known as the "Tombs" in advance of a re-trial

WB short The Monroe Doctrine (18:23) dramatizes the early 19th century political maneuverings between the US, Spain, and other European powers that led to President James Monroe formalizing his Doctrine laying out a US policy of opposing efforts of European powers to colonize or directly interfere with The Americas. King Ferdinand of Spain is portrayed as a snarling villain plotting to crush democracies in the western hemishpere. Portrayals of US political figures from the era include James Monroe, Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, and John Quincy Adams. A montage at the end show how subsequent US presidents employed the doctrine over the next century.

Musical short Mr. and Mrs. Jesse Crawford "At Home" (11:01) features the titular couple playing an organ duet concert accompanying vocalists and dancers with a framing story involving an audition for what they believe to be a potential sponsor from "the gas company" for a radio show.

Technicolor short Quiet, Please (18:02) Combines musical numbers and broad comedy in a wild spoof of behind the scenes Hollywood. You know things are getting especially screwy when the Gorilla arrives on set.

Bars and Stripes Forever(7:43) is a Technicolor Hardaway - Dalton Merrie Melodies cartoon featuring a series of prison-themed gags culminating in a wild escape attempt at its climax.

Hare-um Scare-um (7:39) is a Technicolor Hardaway - Dalton Merrie Melodies cartoon featuring a proto-Bugs Bunny rabbit being pursued by a hunter and his dog. A number of what would become familiar Bugs gags are used, including the rabbit dressing in drag to fool the dog, but the personality is a bit more like Daffy Duck, and the trademark Brooklyn twang is not employed for his voice. He even does a couple of Woddy Woodpecker type laughs.

Theatrical trailer (2:20) Emphasizes the star power of the film and the cast's resume with on-screen title cards highlighting "William Holden: The Star of 'Golden Boy'" and "The Thrill Swept Story of Branded Men".

Larceny Inc.

Commentary by Haden Guest and Dana Polan. Guest is the director of the Harvard Film Archive. Polan is the Professor of Film Studies at New York University. Both of them approach the commentary as if they are preparing a thesis on the film. They spend a lot of time pointing out evidence supporting their analysis of how the film aligns with their interpretations including some subversive, if not necessary intentional, reversals of the film's surface theme of the appeal of all-American capitalism. This gets a bit dry as the commentary progresses, and almost makes one forget that they are commentating on a satirical comedy.

"The Big Shot" theatrical trailer (2:37) promotes the Humphrey Bogart crime drama with unique to the trailer narration from Bogart.

Vintage Newsreel (1:00) offers a minute of footage of inmates playing baseball at San Quentin prison.

Winning Your Wings (18:06) is a US Air Force propaganda piece starring a familiar looking Lieutenant named James Stewart extolling the virtues and importance of Naval aviation with behind the scenes dramatizations of recruiting and training practices.

Porky's Pastry Pirates(6:41) is a Friz Freleng directed Looney Tunes cartoon in which a James Cagney-like bee shows a nervous fly how to eat free pastries at Porky Pig's "Sanitary Bakery" despite the proprietor being armed with a fly swatter.

The Wabbit Who Came to Supper (8:07) is a Technicolor Merrie Melodies Bugs Bunny cartoon directed by Friz Freleng. While rabbit hunting, Elmer Fudd (the pear shaped early 1940s model) learns that he has inherited a multimillion dollar estate, but stands to lose everything if he harms any animals. Needless to say, Bugs exploits this situation to his advantage.

Theatrical trailer (2:31) is a pretty standard trailer with a heavy emphasis on Edward G. Robinson's involvement in the film.

Public Enemies: The Golden Age of the Gangster Film

I Like Mountain Music (6:56) is a 1933 Harman-Ising Merrie Melodies cartoon following what would become a familiar "magazine covers come to life" plot. There is very little gangster related material in this until close to the end where an Edward G. Robinson caricature appears out of the pages of a Hollywood magazine to thwart the efforts of a group of criminals who previously emerged from a true crime magazine.

She Was an Acrobat's Daughter (8:35) is a Friz Freleng directed Technicolor Merrie Melodies cartoon from 1937 that parodies a night out at the movies, lampooning both audience members and theatrical conventions. The gangster connection in this one comes late in the short when the feature presentation proves to be "The Petrified Florist" which spoofs The Petrified Forest complete with caricatures of Leslie Howard and Bette Davis.

Racketeer Rabbit (7:52) is a Friz Freleng directed Technicolor Looney Tunes cartoon from 1946 in which Bugs Bunny matches wits with a couple of criminals who bear a striking resemblance to Edward G. Robinson and Peter Lorre.

Bugs and Thugs (7:12) is a Friz Freleng directed Technicolor Looney Tunes cartoon from 1954 that pits bugs against diminutive bankrobber Bugsy and his large oafish sidekick Mugsy. A couple of gags are repeated from Racketeer Rabbit, but they are improved upon as well. This is one of my all time favorite Freleng cartoons.

Packaging

All films are encoded on dual-layered "DVD-9" discs that are packaged in standard Amaray cases with cover art derived from vintage promotional art. The cover for the Public Enemies... documentary is a montage of iconic images from gangster films. As a penance for having no Cagney films in this set, his image is featured on the cover twice. The hard cases are in turn enclosed in a thin cardboard case with images of Bogart, Raft, and Robinson on the front.

Summary

Warner once again provides an embarrassment of riches via a gangster genre box set. The films represent a cross section of variations on the gangster theme ranging from the pioneering pre-code comedy of The Little Giant to the almost indescribably genre bending The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse. All of the films are presented with outstanding audio/video quality, informative scholarly commentaries, and copious vintage featurettes. The icing on the crime cake is the inclusion of the outstanding new feasture-length documentary Public Enemies: The Golden Age of the Gangster Film which itself is packaged with four bonus gangster-themed cartoons.

Regards,
Ken McAlinden
Livonia, MI USA

#2 of 6 OFFLINE   Roger Rollins

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Posted November 01 2008 - 05:12 AM

Thank you to Ken, for yet another wonderfully detailed and impressive review.

I have this set, and share Ken's enthusiasm and praise for its excellence. I've watched certain films more than once already, and am amazed at how the restorations on these films so dramatically improve the ability to appreciate them vs. the tattered iterations previously seen on television.

It is a stellar achievement, produced with intelligence and extraordinary care by the fine folk at Warner.

...and Ken has shown the same dedication to excellence and detail in his thoughtful and insightful review.

We HTF members are fortunate to be the beneficiaries of Ken's superb work as a reviewer here.

Thanks again, Ken....(and Warner Brothers, too! Posted Image )

#3 of 6 OFFLINE   Steve...O

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Posted November 01 2008 - 06:01 AM

Quote:
We HTF members are fortunate to be the beneficiaries of Ken's superb work as a reviewer here.

Couldn't agree more. Between Ken and his predecessor, Herb Kane, WHV product has been thoughtfully and thoroughly reviewed at HTF for many years. Ken, thank you for another great review.

I love what I've seen of this set so far (two discs). My friend and fellow HTF member Jeff Willis is a fan of INVISIBLE STRIPES so I watched that first and really enjoyed it. Yes, Raft is way too old for the part but is quite good in it. On the flip side, Flora Robson was too young for the part but made up to look older and is endearing as Raft's mother despite being younger than her "son".

The prints for STRIPES and LITTLE GIANT are very, very good. Someone in the Hollywood meet forum said that WHV indicated they spent over $1 million on restoring the films in this set and it shows.

Classic films are not selling as well as they used to which has impacted WHV's output. I encourage anyone who is financially able to do so that enjoys this genre to support this release (under $40 at Sam's Club) to keep them coming.

To any WHV personnel reading: thank you for another great collection!

Steve
Please help UCLA restore the Laurel & Hardy films: https://www.cinema.u...aurel-and-hardy

#4 of 6 OFFLINE   Steve...O

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Posted November 10 2008 - 01:18 PM

I've made it through LARCENY and CLITTERHOUSE. Both are outstanding visually and LARCENY is a delight from start to finish. Ed Brophy really shines in this and it's amazing to see Jackie Gleason so baby faced!

CLITTERHOUSE is a strange film and didn't work all that well with me but it does give Bogie a nice bad guy role. The ending is a shock for the reasons Ken mentions but one could make a case for Robinson acting in self defense.

All the extras are great. I especially liked the Jimmy Stewart short in which he makes a pitch for joining the service.

Still have KID and the documentary to get through. It's been a joyous ride thorugh this set thus far.

Steve
Please help UCLA restore the Laurel & Hardy films: https://www.cinema.u...aurel-and-hardy

#5 of 6 OFFLINE   WadeM

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Posted November 12 2008 - 11:29 AM

I ordered this one. Waiting for it to arrive. Glad to see that it seems to be another winner from WHV.

#6 of 6 OFFLINE   WadeM

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Posted November 27 2008 - 10:45 AM

Wow, another great collection of movies! I was able to watch all of these, and it certainly left me drooling for another 4 volumes. I thought it was one of the better ones in this series. WHV has me impressed again.