DVD/Blu-ray Reviews

Warner Bros. Pictures Gangsters Collection Volume 3 - DVD Review

The word ‘gangster' in the modern world has been modified to ‘gansta' and is more closely related to the hip-hop/rap/gangland image popularised through often fictionalised representations of that demographic. And although the Mafia still exists, when most people are offered the word ‘gangster,' images of a time and image long since past are the first that come to mind...

The gangster movie was a juggernaught in the thirties, as superhero or summer movies are today. Some of the most memorable movie stars in history cut their teeth in this genre, three of the biggest which feature predominantly in this set, so Warner Bros. are continuing their packaging of this still popular genre in a third volume of six. The following is a brief description of each...


Black LegionBlack Legion (1937)

Rated: Not rated by the MPAA.
Runtime: 83 mins.
Director: Archie Mayo
Writer: Robert Lord (story); Abem Finkel (screenplay)
Cast: Humphrey Bogart; Ann Sheridan; Dick Foran; Helen Flint
DVD Release Date: March 25, 2008
Genre: Drama/Crime

3 Stars

Based on a racist organisation of the time that opposed immigration and foreigners taking up jobs over whites, Humphrey Bogart plays Frank Taylor, a member of the ‘Legion' and a man who sees a foreign born pal promoted ahead of him at work. When his friend is forced to let him go, Frank's ‘Legion' buddies insist he get revenge. This was Bogart's first starring role, after play supporting bits for a dog's age. The film is still well-regarded and relevant to this day.

DVD Special Features:

* Theatrical trailer: The Perfect Specimen
* Two WB shorts: Hi De Ho and Under Southern Stars
* Authentic newsreel
* WB short: Porky and Gabby


Brotehr Orchid

Brother Orchid (1938)

Rated: Not rated by the MPAA.
Runtime: 88 mins.
Director: Lloyd Bacon
Writer: Richard Connell (story); Earl Baldwin (writer)
Cast: Edward G. Robinson; Ann Sothern; Humphrey Bogart
DVD Release Date: March 25, 2008

3 Stars

In this, one of five pairings that culminated with ‘Key Largo', Bogart plays an ambitious gangster, second in command to Edward G. Robinson. When Robinson abandons his post, Bogart takes over, only to be faced with a battle for control when his mentor returns years later and wants his top spot back. Any of their five films together are a thing to behold and an obvious example of why there were five pairings to begin with this is no different.

DVD Special Features:

* Theatrical trailer: It All Came True
* WB short: Henry Busse and His Orchestra
* Two exclusive WB cartoons: Busy Bakers and Slap Happy Pappy


Lady Killer

Lady Killer (1933)

Rated: Not rated by the MPAA.
Runtime: 76 mins.
Director: Roy Del Ruth
Writer: Rosalind Keating Shaffer (story); Ben Markson (screenplay)
Cast: James Cagney; Mae Clarke; Margaret Lindsay
DVD Release Date: March 25, 2008
Genre: Comedy

3 Stars

James Cagney stars as a down on his luck type that ends up in the world of crime. Finding he has considerable aptitude for the talents needed in such a life, he finds himself getting deeper and deeper entrenched. When the police finally catch up with him, Cagney flees to Los Angeles and against all odds carves out a successful career for himself in Hollywood. But his criminal friends have not forgotten him, and want a piece of his action... and will do whatever it takes to get it. We've all heard the stories of Sinatra and the Rat Pack's supposed affiliation with the mob this came a few decades before them.

DVD Special Features:

* Two exclusive WB shorts: The Camera Speaks and Kissing Time
* Original theatrical trailer
* WB cartoon: The Shanty Where Santy Claus Lives


Pictrue Snatcher

Picture Snatcher (1933)

Rated: Not rated by the MPAA.
Runtime: 77 mins.
Director: Lloyd Bacon
Writer: Daniel Ahern (story); Allen Rivkin (adaptation)
Cast: James Cagney; Ralph Bellamy; Patricia Ellis
DVD Release Date: March 25, 2008
Genre: Drama/Crime

2 stars

Cagney plays to type, again playing a man from the wrong side of the tracks, who tries to make an honest go of things as a photographer. He falls in love with the daughter of a policeman, who at first isn't too happy about the union. But things go from bad to worse when Cagney uses photographs of an execution that lead to his girl's father being fired... and obviously contact with his girl goes out the window. But when two of Cagney's former nefarious pals kill two police officers, Cagney sees the chance to get back in the old man's good books and get back his girl.

DVD Special Features:

* Vintage theatrical trailer: I Loved A Woman
* Classic WB short: Plane Crazy
* WB cartoon: Wake Up The Gypsy In Me


Smart Money

Smart Money (1931)

Rated: Not rated by the MPAA.
Runtime: 81 mins.
Director: Alfred E. Green
Writer: Kubec Glasmon & John Bright
Cast: Edward G. Robinson; James Cagney; Margaret Livingston
DVD Release Date: March 25, 2008

3 Stars

The only film to combine the talents of popular silver screen ‘heavies,' Edward G. Robinson and James Cagney, this is the story of a barber (Robinson) who goes to the big smoke to become a gambler and is rolled by a hottie and some thugs. Not content being a victim, the barber enlists the talents of a ‘Heavy' (Cagney) and some thugs of his own to get even. This film is notable for Cagney, who was just shy of his huge break-though, being the supporting player to Robinson, and also for Boris Karloff in a small part before he made history with ‘Frankenstein'... AND, being a pre-code film, there is a scene involving cunnilingus... dirty buggars.

DVD Special Features:

* Theatrical trailer: Other Men's Women
* Two WB shorts: George Jessel and His Art Choir and The Smart Set-Up
* WB cartoon: Big Man From the North


Mayor of Hell

Mayor of Hell (1933)

**Authors pick of the box**
Rated: Not rated by the MPAA.
Runtime: 90 mins.
Director: Archie Mayo
Writer: Islin Auster (story); Edward Chodorov (screenplay)
Cast: James Cagney; Madge Evans; Arthur Byron
DVD Release Date: March 25, 2008
Genre: Drama/Crime
Distributor: Warner Bros. Home Video
Official Site: www.gangstersdvd.com

5 Stars

Cagney plays a former gangster and newly appointed commissioner for a brutal reform school. With the help of a kindly nurse, the - at first - disinterested commissioner starts seeing the brutality and aids the nurse in making things better for the boys, including sending the superintendent responsible away. But when Cagney is called away and ends up killing someone, he has to go into hiding; the bad superintendent returns and things for the boys go to shit quickly. The kindly nurse goes to find Cagney when the boys turn on the Superintendent in a BAD way, and Cagney ultimately ends up staying on at the school full time. This film is so good it was remade twice! Rather quickly just a few years later with Humphrey Bogart and then in the 50's with former-President Ronnie Reagan.

DVD Special Features:
* Four exclusive theatrical trailers: The Kennel Murder Case, The Mayor of Hell, Crime School, and Hell's Kitchen
* WB Short: The Audition
* WB Cartoon: The Organ Grinder

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