We are going to step out of our normal genre, just for a moment, to highlight two Blu-ray box sets that were released last week from Warner Brothers. Now, in the past, Warner Brothers has released three different volumes of Gangster Films. Mania covered the third volume back in 2008 (check out the review here). That collection featured some of the lesser known titles such as The Black Legion (1936), The Mayor of Hell (1933) and my personal favorite of the lot, Brother Orchid (1940). If you are a fan of Humphrey Bogart, James Cagney, and Edward G. Robinson then this was a rare treat into some of their lesser known films.
With Blu-ray becoming the preferred format, Warner Brothers is back at it again with all new transfers and a relaunch of the gangster collection. However, this time they have broken the films into “Classic” and “Contemporary.” A fair treatment as (and I still find this hard to believe) some people don’t like black and white films. If you prefer the likes of Robert DeNiro, Joe Pesci, and Al Pacino as your gangsters then the “Contemporary” Collection is probably more to your liking. Personally, I find the likes of the “Classics” more appealing.
The Ultimate Gangster Collection: Classics contains Little Caesar (1931), The Public Enemy (1931), The Petrified Forest (1936), and White Heat (1949). If you love documentaries about the making of movies (and frankly, who doesn’t?) then “Public Enemies: The Golden Age of the Gangster Film” is your icing on the cake. It is nearly two hours of clips, interviews and chats with both contemporary filmmakers, historians, and original cast and crew members of these classic films. To hear likes of William Wellman (director of The Public Enemy) discuss who got punched in the face to save the ending of a film is something I never expected. Narrated by Alec Baldwin, this documentary is the perfect companion for the movies in both collections. However, despite The Untouchables being in the “Contemporary” collection, there is no mention of it in the documentary; odd since Mean Streets, The Departed, and even Heat get mentioned.
The one film I hadn’t seen in the collection was The Petrified Forest. Here, Leslie Howard (Gone With the Wind) is a drifter who comes to gas station in the middle of the desert. He falls in love with a very young Bette Davis (All About Eve). Director Archie Mayo really lays out all the players and what is at stake just when Duke Mantee (Humphrey Bogart) rolls in hot off a bank robbery. The Duke and his crew are waiting, but waiting for what? It’s a great game of personalities and wits as both Howard and Bogart square off against one another. Sure, many of us have seen the likes of Cagney in The Public Enemy and White Heat, yet the chance to see a young Bogart tear open the screen with a brutal subtlety is too good to pass up.
The genre of gangster films was clearly defined in the 1930’s. It was the great “No” in the American “Yes”. If there was a time when one man could come up from nothing, it was there on the streets captured on black and white celluloid. This American genre of filmmaking defined Hollywood and is still being reinvented over and over again with each new generation of filmmaker. These two box sets should have just been one big one. As one watches Edward G. Robinson’s portrayal of an Al Capone like character in Little Caesar and then DeNiro’s in The Untouchables, it is easy to see the comparisons and brilliance in each performance. The only difference is time, budget, and color.
If you need a break from the mundane summer movies playing at the mega-plex, check out these two collections. You’ll be happily mesmerized by the bad guy who takes you on a thrilling, dark adventure on the wrong side of the law.
The "Ultimate Gangster Collection: Classics" and “Ultimate Gangster Collection: Contemporary” are available on Blu-ray 5/21. Clips below!
Ultimate Gangster Collection: Contemporary Blu-rays contains: Heat (1995), The Departed (2008), Goodfellas (1990), Mean Streets (1973), and The Untouchables (1987).
ACTION / ADVENTURE / KUNG FU/ THRILLERS / WESTERNS
Best Laid Plans [Blu-ray]
Dead Mine Starring Joe Taslim, Miko Mizumo and Sam Hazeldine
Dead Mine [Blu-ray] Starring Joe Taslim, Miko Mizumo and Sam Hazeldin
Girl on The Run Starring Richard Coogan and Frank Albertson
The Girl Who Knew Too Much [Blu-ray] Starring Adam West, Nancy Kwan, Robert Alda and Nehemiah Persoff
The Girl Who Knew Too Much Starring Adam West, Nancy Kwan, Robert Alda and Nehemiah Persoff
Jumpin Jack Flash [Blu-ray] Starring Whoopy Goldberg, Stephen Collin, Carol Kane
Jumpin Jack Flash
Lore Starring Saskia Rosendahl and Kai Malina
Lore [Blu-ray] Starring Saskia Rosendahl and Kai Malina
The Numbers Station [Blu-ray] Starring John Cusack, Malin Akerman, Liam Cunningham
The Numbers Station Starring John Cusack, Malin Akerman, Liam Cunningham
Priest Of Evil Starring Peter Franzen and Irina Bjorklund
Rolling Thunder [Blu-ray] Starring William Devane, Tommy Lee Jones and Linda Haynes
Shoot First Die Later (Remastered) [Blu-ray] Starring Richard Conte and Luc Merenda
Shoot First Die Later (Remastered) Starring Richard Conte and Luc Merend
Star Chamber [Blu-ray]
Walk The Dark Street Starring Chuck Connors
Phi-Brain: Season 1 - Collection 2 [Blu-ray]
Phi-Brain: Season 1 - Collection 2
Beetlejuice: Season One Starring Stephen Ouimette and Alyson Court
Despicable Me (3D Blu-ray + Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy + UltraViolet) Starring Steve Carell, Jason Segel, Russell Brand and Julie Andrews
Despicable Me (Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy + UltraViolet) Starring Steve Carell, Jason Segel, Russell Brand and Julie Andrews
My Dog Tulip [Blu-ray] Starring Christopher Plummer, Lynn Redgrave
Superman Super-Villains: Brainiac
Superman Super Villains: Metallo
Superman Super Villains: Bizarro
Tiny Toon Adventures, Volume 4: Looney Links!
Blowing Wild [Blu-ray] Starring Gary Cooper, Barbara Stanwyck, Anthony Quinn and Ruth Roman
Cleopatra (50th Anniversary Limited Edition 2-Disc + Book) [Blu-ray]
Cleopatra (50th Anniversary 2-Disc Edition) [Blu-ray]
Confidential Starring Donald Cook, J. Carrol Naish and Evalyn Knapp
Dark Command Starring John Wayne, Claire Trevor, Walter Pidgeon and Roy Rogers
Dark Command [Blu-ray] Starring John Wayne, Claire Trevor, Walter Pidgeon and Roy Rogers
Father Goose [Blu-ray] Starring Cary Grant, Leslie Caron and Trevor Howard
In Old California Starring John Wayne, Binnie Barnes, Albert Dekker and Patsy Kelly
In Old California [Blu-ray] Starring John Wayne, Binnie Barnes, Albert Dekker and Patsy Kelly
Lady From Louisiana Starring John Wayne, Ona Munson, Ray Middleton and Henry Stephenson
Lady From Louisiana [Blu-ray] Starring John Wayne, Ona Munson, Ray Middleton and Henry Stephenson
COMEDY AND LOVE Mania Style
Black Knight [Blu-ray]
The Magic Christian [Blu-ray] Starring Peter Sellers, Ringo Starr, Raquel Welch
My Super Ex-Girlfriend [Blu-ray]
Life Is Sweet (Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray] Starring Alison Steadman, Jim Broadbent, Claire Skinner
Life Is Sweet (Criterion Collection) Starring Alison Steadman, Jim Broadbent, Claire Skinner
9 Days: Whipped Chained & Tortured By a Psychopath Starring Maura Murphy, Chris Schleicher, Simone Fraund
Attack of the Jurassic Shark Starring Christine Emes, Emannuelle Carriere, Celine Filion
The Birds [Blu-ray] Starring Tippi Hedren, Veronica Cartwright and Rod Taylor
Brainiac Starring Abel Salazar and Ariadna Welter
Corpse Grinders III Starring John Martino and Pedro Garcia
Dark Skies Starring Keri Russell, Jake Brennan, Josh Hamilton and Dakota Goyo
Dark Skies [Blu-ray] Starring Keri Russell, Jake Brennan, Josh Hamilton and Dakota Goyo
SCIENCE FICTION / FANTASY
Ae: Apocalypse Earth
Ae: Apocalypse Earth [Blu-ray]
Doctor Who: The Snowmen [Blu-ray]
Doctor Who: The Snowmen
Shanks Starring Marcel Marceau, Tsilla Chelton, Philippe Clay
Shanks [Blu-ray] Starring Marcel Marceau, Tsilla Chelton, Philippe Clay
Covert Affairs: Season Three Starring Piper Perabo, Christopher Gorham, Kari Matchett
Doctor Who: Series Seven - Part Two
Doctor Who: Series Seven - Part Two [Blu-ray]
Longmire: The Complete First Season Starring Robert Taylor, Lou Diamond Phillips, Katee Sackhoff
Red Widow: The Complete First Season Starring Radha Mitchell, Lee Tergesen, Luke Goss and Rade Serbedzija
Suits: Season Two (DVD + UltraViolet) Starring Gabriel Macht and Patrick J. Adams
Best of Film Noir Vol. 1 Starring Edward G. Robinson, Frank Sinatra and John Payne
Predator Trilogy [Blu-ray]
The "Ultimate Gangster Collection: Classics" and “Ultimate Gangster Collection: Contemporary” are available now on Blu-ray!