Warner Gangsters Collection, Vol. 4

Title: Warner Gangsters Collection, Vol. 4wg

Silent or Talkie: Talkie

Review

Warner Bros is back with another batch of thugs, mugs, and bullets. The Warner Gangsters Collection, Vol. 4 features the usual suspects (Bogart, Robinson), as well as some pleasant surprises in the form of Bette Davis and George Raft. A very young William Holden makes an appearance and a documentary on what it means to be a gangster tops off the set.

Larceny, Inc. (1942) stars Edward G. Robinson as Pressure Maxwell, a convict leaving Sing Sing prison with a plan to oversee a dog track. Initially wanted to play it legit, his old habits kick in when he?s denied a bank loan to fund his idea. With two of his partners Jug (Broderick Crawford) and Weepy (Edward Brophy), Pressure sets up shop in a luggage store directly adjacent to the bank. Their goal is to tunnel through the basement wall and into the bank’s vault. However, as the luggage shop becomes increasingly popular, and Pressure more known throughout the neighborhood, the success of the heist is compromised. Throw in an overbearing luggage wholesaler (Jack Carson) and an escaped convict looking to settle a score with Pressure (Anthony Quinn), and you have a Gotham-esque caper, complete with a towering city backdrop. Special features include: Commentary by Haden Guest and Dana Polan, Vintage newsreel, The Big Shot theatrical trailer, WB short – Winning Your Wings, WB cartoons – Porky’s Pastry Pirates, The Wabbit Who Came to Supper, and the Theatrical trailer.

Invisible Stripes (1939) stars three major players: George Raft, Humphrey Bogart, and William Holden. George Raft is Cliff Taylor and Humphrey Bogart is Chuck Martin. Both men are paroled from Sing Sing with different views on post-prison life. Martin plans to jump right back into a crooked lifestyle, while Cliff would rather stay out of trouble. As Cliff returns home, he finds his kid brother (Holden) to be a spitfire who is ready to fight anyone at the drop of a hat. Cliff tries to keep a lid on him while attempting to find honest work. But as an ex-con, his opportunities are scarce and he considers falling back to his old ways to make a buck. He becomes everything from a victim of circumstance to a target of blatant disregard. Special features include: Commentary by Alain Silver and James Ursini, You Can’t Get Away with Murder Theatrical trailer, Vintage newsreel, WB shorts – The Monroe Doctrine and Quiet, Please, WB cartoons – Bars and Stripes Forever, Hare-um Scare-um, and the Theatrical trailer.

The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse (1938) stars Edward G. Robinson as a doctor obsessed with studying the traits and actions of criminals. To aid his research, he becomes a criminal himself, cracking safes before diving deeper into the underworld. Clitterhouse joins a gang run by Jo Keller (Claire Trevor) and Rocks Valentine (Humphrey Bogart). Jo likes Clitterhouse but Rocks is suspicious of him and tries, unsuccessfully, to knock him off. Rocks eventually confirms his own suspicions when he finds the doctor’s notes; but before Rocks can carry out his threats of blackmail, Clitterhouse kills him and is put on trial for murder. Based on a play by BarrĂ© Lyndon, almost all the characters’ names are changed in the film adaptation of The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse. Special features include: Commentary by Dr. Drew Casper and Richard Jewell, Racket Busters theatrical trailer, Vintage newsreel, WB short – Night Intruder, WB cartoons – Cinderella Meets a Fella, Count Me Out, 1941 Lady Esther Screen Guild Theater Broadcast (audio only), 1944 Gulf Screen Guild Theater Broadcast (audio only), and the Theatrical trailer.

The Little Giant (1933) stars Edward G. Robinson as “Bugs” Ahearn, a bootlegger who finds himself out of a job when prohibition ends. After breaking up his gang in Chicago, Bugs decides to head west with hopes of starting a new racket. He lands among Santa Barbara?s upper class, leases a huge mansion and becomes involved with a girl named Polly Cass (Helen Vinson). His criminal past hasn’t prepared him to handle such a respectable crowd. He’s a fish out of water trying to swim in a legitimate river. However, Bugs soon discovers that his digs belong to a woman named Ruth Wayburn (Mary Astor), a socialite in the middle of financial difficulties. Bugs hires Ruth as his secretary, but there is more trouble brewing under the surface. Bugs finds more con artists in high society than he did in Chicago’s underworld. Special features include: Commentary by Daniel Bubbeo and John McCarty, Vintage newsreel, WB short: Just Around the Corner, WB cartoon: The Dish Ran Away with the Spoon, and the Theatrical trailer.

Kid Galahad (1937) stars Edward G. Robinson as Nick Donati, a boxing promoter who turns a young, quiet bellhop named Ward Guisenberry (Wayne Morris) into Kid Galahad, a title contender. Trouble arises when Donati’s girlfriend, Fluff (Bette Davis), and his sister, Marie (Jane Bryan), both fall in love with Ward, adding layers of drama to the climactic grudge match between the Kid and a fighter promoted by Donati’s bitter rival, Turkey Morgan (Humphrey Bogart). Kid Galahad was remade in 1962 as an Elvis Presley musical. Special features include: Commentary by Art Simon and Robert Sklar, It’s Love I’m After theatrical trailer, Vintage newsreel, WB Shorts: Alibi Mark and Postal Union, WB Cartoons: Egghead Rides Again, I Wanna Be a Sailor, Porky’s Super Service, and the Theatrical trailer.

Finally, Public Enemies: The Golden Age of the Gangster Film tops off this incredible set. This documentary follows the evolution of the on-screen thug and pairs him with society’s growth and occasion downfall. Some of the most well-known gangsters, such as “Rico” in Little Caesar, are profiled as pillars in the criminal world. Gangster films had become a genre in the early thirties and remained a staple in the Depression years. But even they came from humbler beginnings, with films like 1903’s The Great Train Robbery, a 12-minute Western based on an 1896 play by Scott Marble. These films portrayed the brazenness that ordinary people secretly wanted. They showed acquisition by force during an era when money was tight and jobs were scarce. It was almost a twisted version of the American dream – having it all without worrying about consequences. Men like Bogart, Robinson, and James Cagney drilled those criminal personas into cinema, and Warner Bros. was a large force behind placing them in front of an audience. Special features include: Four WB Cartoons: I Like Mountain Music, She Was an Acrobat’s Daughter, Racketeer Rabbit and Bugs and Thugs.

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