Warner Gangster Collection on DVD
If you love gangster movies but associate them with names such as
De Palma, De Niro and Scorcese, you really owe it to yourself to sit down and
watch this six disc boxed set from Warners.
And when you do, you'll be treated to names such as Cagney,
Bogart, Robinson, Walsh and Curtiz, as well as some of the most famous gangster
flicks of the 1930's and 40's.
These are some of the granddaddys of gangster films, movies that
pretty well set the standard for the ones that followed. They were also star
making vehicles for some of the biggest male stars of the "golden age" of
Here we see black and white, full frame gangster movies at their
best, in newly remastered versions that, in Warner Home Entertainment
tradition, also give you the chance to experience them as you would have seen
them at a "night out" back in the movies' era. That's because each film can be
viewed as a "Warner Night at the Movies," with a trailer, newsreel, short
subject, and cartoon accompanying the main feature - all introduced by
ubiquitious movie lover/historian Leonard Maltin.
Partaking of the entire show is the best way to enjoy these
flicks, but of course you can ignore the extras and head straight into the
flicks themselves if you prefer.
The movies are:
The Public Enemy - James Cagney became a star with his
portrayal of small time thug Tom Powers, a really nasty piece of work who rises
in the world of crime. The film contains an extra two minutes of footage that
apparently haven't been seen in 70 years.
It's easy to see why Cagney became a star.
In White Heat, Cagney is just as nasty - and mesmerizing -
as the cold-blooded thug Cody Jarrett. The movie follows the life of a man
described as a ticking time bomb, from jail and back again to an ultimate
"achievement" that leaves him "on top of the world."
Little Caesar made Edward G. Robinson into the prototypical
gangster many would copy - or at least imitate. He's a tough guy, fast with his
gun and ruthless - and afraid of no one. The movie follows his rise from small
time hood to gang leader in what's supposed to be a thinly disguised version of
the life of Al Capone.
Angels with Dirty Faces teams Cagney with Humphrey Bogart
and Pat O'Brien. Cagney is Rocky Sullivan, a tough guy from skid row whose rise
in the world of crime makes him a hero to the gang of young punks (the Dead End
Kids). This film was nominated for three Oscars.
The Petrified Forest stars Humphrey Bogart reprising his
Broadway role (with Bette Davis). It's a gritty "survival of the fittest" tale
about a hostage taking in a rundown diner.
And The Roaring Twenties follows the life and times of
unemployed war veteran Eddie Bartlett (James Cagney) who finds "success" after
becoming a bootlegger. Co-stars Humphrey Bogart.
As mentioned, all the movies have been digitally remastered and
the picture quality is generally pretty good. There's still plenty of grain in
sections, though, but overall the black and white, full frame images capture
the mood and the era very well.
They aren't 16x9 TV compatible, of course, so if your TV is prone
to burn in you'll want to stretch and/or zoom the picture to fill the
Audio is, not surprisingly, Dolby Digital mono and is also, not
surprisingly, nothing to write home about. This is too bad, but it's only to be
Each movie also comes with a good selection of extras, including
commentary tracks, some new featurettes and audio-only bonus material (for
example, The Petrified Forest comes with a radio adaptation of the film/play
starring Bogart, Tyrone Power and Joan Bennett). And of course as mentioned
above, each DVD can be enjoyed as a "Warner Night at the Movies" with or
without Maltin (we enjoyed his intros) and with the "full meal deal" of
This is a terrific set, and will undoubtedly be popular with
collectors and students as well as those merely looking for a great gangster
Tell us at TechnoFile what YOU think