Sunday, April 6, 2008


Recently, Warner Brothers has released three box sets that are Volume 3 in a series. From Bette Davis to Gangsters to musicals, these three box sets have it all and we’re going to look at each of them on an individual basis in this article which I have broken up into three parts.
First up is the Gangsters Collection. The nice thing about getting to volume three of this set is that all the expected ones have already been issued and now we get to the little less known, harder to find flicks that have needed a nice DVD release.
First up we have BLACK LEGION. An early, starring role for Humphrey Bogart, BLACK LEGION tells the tale of a group of men who believe that America should consist of free, white Americans. A bold statement in 1937 that still remains relevant in today’s society of white supremacy groups in our nation. In addition to the film we get an excellent, informative commentary from film historians Patricia King Hanson and Anthony Slide.
The disc also includes a vintage newsreel from the time. An awesome short with Cab Calloway entitled Hi De Ho. The Technicolor historical short, Under Southern Stars. A cartoon entitled Porky and Gabby and trailers for the film.
Bogart with Ann Sheridan is amazing to watch in this film. Of all the Gangster flicks in this box set I think this is the most important of the lot.
From BLACK LEGION we go to James Cagney in THE MAYOR OF HELL. Set in the depression, Cagney plays Patsy Gargan who gets a cushy job running a woefully ruin reform school for boys. But, Pasty sees something in the boys that reminds him of himself growing up and he goes from thinking he has this cushy gig to fighting tooth and nail for these boys. This was remade with Humphrey Bogart as CRIME SCHOOL and the film, HELL’S KITCHEN. A fascinating look at a time gone by. This DVD, as all the others contains a newsreel, trailers a short film and a cartoon to reflect the time of the films release.
Up next is another Cagney film in THE PICTURE SNATCHER, with Ralph Bellamy. Interesting is how this film reflects society today. Cagney plays a tabloid photographer who will go to any lengths to get that all important picture. Cagney is a live wire in the portrayal of a man who has gone from the depths of Sing Sing Prison to the mean streets, jockeying for the pictures that he knows he must get. Truly a rare gem of a performance by Cagney.
SMART MONEY gives us Cagney along with the one of a kind Edward G. Robinson. They were just months away from their big, break out roles in THE PUBLIC ENEMY and LITTLE CAESAR, respectively, when they made this film about a couple of barbers who decide to start cutting in on the local gambling racket. A great little flick with two classic actors chewing up the screen in a neat little flick.
Humphrey Bogart returns with Ann Southern and the one and only Edward G. Robinson in BROTHER ORCHID which spoofs the entire gangster genre and is a real fun time. Probably the most recognizable of all the films in this box set.
Finally we have another Cagney flick in LADY KILLER where it manages to combine a filmmaking spoof, a crime thriller and a very well done character study.
Warner Bros. Pictures, GANGSTERS COLLECTION VOL. 3 with it’s lesser known films and all the wonderful extras that come with each disc is a must have for any true fan of classic films and gangster films in particular.

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