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This Gangster Classics box set actually lives up to its title - it's one of the better high-def box sets of the year so far....
Warner / 357 Minutes / 1931-1949 / Unrated / Street Date: May 21, 2013
Warner’s Ultimate Gangsters Collection: Contemporary is a relatively trivial and difficult-to-recommend re-release of Blu-ray titles you probably already own, but this Classics box set is actually something of a revelation. These are four films that are pitch-perfect representations of the genre, films that embody exactly what it means to be a film noir gangster picture from the good old days.
The Bogie picture The Petrified Forest (1936) is perhaps the least indicative title on this set, but even so, it’s a blast: it’s easy to forget just how much scenery he and co-star Bette Davis can chew when they really go at it (as fun as it is, don’t expect any aspect of the movie to have any kind of innate subtlety whatsoever). And the James Cagney one-two punch of The Public Enemy (1931) and White Heat (1949) is positively irresistible – White Heat’s final moments alone are worth an investment into a compilation like this one.
And then there’s Little Caesar (1931), one of the truly underrepresented movies of its kind. Edward G. Robinson was never as flashy or distinctly lovable as Cagney or Bogie, but in this Mervyn LeRoy picture, he shines with a ballsy bravado that few character actors before or since have been able to tap into. Little Caesar is truly a gangster classic, a bristled, gritty melodrama that plays its emotion wide – it’s not timid at all in terms of its narrative – but leaves a deep mark, especially now in high-def.