Starring: James Cagney, Leslie Howard, Edward G. Robinson, Bette Davis, Virginia Mayo, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.
Directors: Archie Mayo, William A. Wellman, Mervyn LeRoy, Raoul Walsh
Distributed by: Warner Bros
Release Date: May 21, 2013
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Running Time: 357 minutes
Our Score: 4 out of stars
Who can help but not love the classic B&W gangster films. The following films make up this “Ultimate Gangsters Collection: Classics” – “Little Caesar (1931)”, “The Public Enemy (1931)”, “The Petrified Forest (1936)”, “White Heat (1949)”. These are all great films that I have seen many times and never grow tired watching. Whenever I think “The Public Enemy”, I am transported to the Disney’s Hollywood Studios on The Great Movie Ride, one of my favorites. These films are what made gangster films popular and paved the way for today’s films. If you are a looking for a great place to be transported to the origin of the gangster film then look no further than this Blu-ray release.
All of these films are appearing on Blu-ray for the first time ever, as part of Warner Bros. 90th Anniversary celebration. Each of these films will also be available on May 21st individually on Blu-ray. But this box set collection is quite a think a beauty. All the film comes in a nice slipcase and includes an additional 32-page book with images and facts about each of the film. The 1080p transfers are very impressive for these classic films the latest dating back to almost 80 years ago. They are all presented with an aspect ratio of 1.37:1. The audio tracks included are also DTS-HD Master Audio Mono for each film, which work very well. The dialogues are clear and just are held up so well.
“Little Caesar (1931)” Official Premise: The ambitious criminal Rico moves from the country to the big city in the east and joins Sam Vettori’s gang with his friend Joe Massara. Sooner he becomes the leader of the gangsters and known as Little Caesar, and gets closer to the great mobster Pete Montana. In a robbery of a night-club, he kills the Crime Commissioner Alvin McClure and his pal Joe witnesses the murder. When Rico orders Joe to leave his mistress Olga Strassoff, she takes a serious decision.
“The Public Enemy (1931)” Official Premise: Tom Powers and Matt Doyle are best friends and fellow gangsters, their lives frowned upon by Tom’s straight laced brother, Mike, and Matt’s straight laced sister, Molly. From their teen-aged years into young adulthood, Tom and Matt have an increasingly lucrative life, bootlegging during the Prohibition era. But Tom in particular becomes more and more brazen in what he is willing to do, and becomes more obstinate and violent against those who either disagree with him or cross him. When one of their colleagues dies in a freak accident, a rival bootlegging faction senses weakness among Tom and Matt’s gang, which is led by Paddy Ryan. A gang war ensues, resulting in Paddy suggesting that Tom and Matt lay low. But because of Tom’s basic nature, he decides instead to take matters into his own hands.
“The Petrified Forest (1936)” Official Premise: Gabby lives and works at her dads small diner out in the desert. She can’t stand it and wants to go and live with her mother in France. Along comes Alan, a broke man with no will to live, who is traveling to see the pacific, and maybe to drown in it. Meanwhile Duke Mantee a notorious killer and his gang is heading towards the diner where Mantee plan on meeting up with his girl.
“White Heat (1949)” Official Premise: Cody Jarrett is the sadistic leader of a ruthless gang of thieves. Afflicted by terrible headaches and fiercely devoted to his ‘Ma,’ Cody is a volatile, violent, and eccentric leader. Cody’s top henchman wants to lead the gang and attempts to have an ‘accident’ happen to Cody, while he is running the gang from in jail. But Cody is saved by an undercover cop, who thereby befriends him and infiltrates the gang. Finally, the stage is set for Cody’s ultimate betrayal and downfall, during a big heist at a chemical plant.
These “Classics” each come with their own set of extras. “Little Caesar (1931)” comes with a commentary by film historian Robert Sklar. Leonard Maltin Hosts Warner Night at the Movies 1931 with Newsreel, Spencer Tracy Short The Hard Guy, Cartoon Lady Play Your Mandolin and Theatrical Trailers. There is also a featurette “Little Caesar: End of Rico, Beginning of the Antihero” included. “The Public Enemy (1931)” includes a commentary by film historian Richard B. Jewell. Leonard Maltin Hosts Warner Night at the Movies 1931 with Newsreel, Comedy Short The Eyes Have It, Cartoon Smile, Darn Ya, Smile! and Theatrical Trailers. There is also a featurette “Beer and Blood: Enemies of the Public” included.
“The Petrified Forest (1936)” includes a commentary by Bogart biographer Eric Lax. Leonard Maltin Hosts Warner Night at the Movies 1936 with Newsreel, Musical Short Rhythmitis, Cartoon The Coo Coo Nut Grove and Theatrical Trailers. There is also a featurette “The Petrified Forest: Menace in the Desert” included and an Audio-Only Bonus: 1/7/1940 Gulf Screen Theater Broadcast. Lastly “White Heat (1949)” includes a commentary by Film Historian Drew Casper. Leonard Maltin Hosts Warner Night at the Movies 1949 with Newsreel, Comedy Short So You Think You’re Not Guilty, Cartoon Homeless Hare and Theatrical Trailers. There is also a featurette “White Heat: Top of the World” included.
If all that is not enough there is still more. There is a bonus DVD included with yet another feature-length documentary called “The Public Enemies: The Golden Age of The Gangster Film”. Even though this is just on DVD, it is still a must-watch if you are a fan of this genre and only makes this release worth every penny.
The “Ultimate Gangster Collection: Classics” and “Ultimate Gangster Collection: Contemporary” are available on Blu-ray 5/21