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Warner Gangsters Collection, Vol. 2 (Bullets or Ballots / City for Conquest / Each Dawn I Die / G Men / San Quentin / A Slight Case of Murder)

4.8 out of 5 stars 43 customer reviews

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  • Warner Gangsters Collection, Vol. 4 (The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse / Invisible Stripes / Kid Galahad / Larceny, Inc. / The Little Giant / Public Enemies: The Golden Age of the Gangster Film)
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Product Description

Warner Gangsters Collection Volume 2 (DVD) (6-Pack)

Packin' A Punch...and Packin' Heat! On the heels of the success of the Warner Bros. Gangster Collection, the Warner Bros. Tough Guys Collection delivers six all new to DVD Classics featuring Hollywood's greatest Academy-Award winning Tough guys - James Cagney, Humphrey Bogart, and Edward G. Robinson.

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Say "Warner Bros. in the '30s" and you're talking, first and foremost, about the tough, gritty, urban, street-smart movies that help define that American decade for us. Which means you're talking about James Cagney, Edward G. Robinson, and Humphrey Bogart: unpretty but charismatic guys with lived-in faces, and bodies that always seemed cocked, ready to spring. When one of them entered a room, he owned it, no matter how many people were there already. Their most celebrated habitat was the gangster picture. The genre didn't originate with them, but they, more than anybody else, defined it, gave it a face and a silhouette and a heartbeat.

The films in this set were produced half a decade and more after Little Caesar and The Public Enemy made stars of Robinson and Cagney, respectively, and after repeal had begun to lend Prohibition the patina of nostalgia. The studio's gangster franchise was evolving, and so were the careers of its top stars. When it came to toughness, the boys could still dish it out, and take it, too. But increasingly they were doing it on the other side of the law-and-order divide.

Cagney was first to reform. In 1935's "G" Men he plays a lawyer put through college by the avuncular neighborhood crimelord. After a law-school pal turned F.B.I. agent is murdered, Cagney abandons his (resolutely legit) one-man practice and joins the Bureau. The film memorializes several big moments in F.B.I. legend, but what's grabbiest is the personal drama growing out of Cagney's lingering underworld friendships. William Keighley directs the murders and shootouts with jolting ferocity, Barton MacLane and Edward Pawley supply flavorful villainy, and there are times when Sol Polito's cinematography literally glows (all these films have been restored, but "G" Men looks especially terrific). One gripe: The movie should have been presented without the F.B.I.-classroom intro tacked on for 1949 reissue (which belongs under "Special Features").

In Each Dawn I Die (also Keighley, 1939), Cagney teams with George Raft making his Warners debut. It's mostly a prison picture, with muckraking reporter Cagney behind bars after being framed by crooked politicos. Career felon Raft has little sympathy for him till Cagney proves to be a stand-up guy, whereupon the two bond in mutual loathing of sadistic guards, rat-fink convicts, and the endlessly malleable system. The movie boasts one indelible scene (involving a movie screening for the cons), some evocative prison workhouse detailing, and a fine Cagney performance as always. But it's undone by a script cluttered with melodrama and contrivance.

Bullets or Ballots (Keighley yet again, 1936) is much more satisfying. Again we get two icons for the price of one, with Robinson as a tough but square-shooting police detective and Bogart as the ambitious number-two man to a big-time racketeer. Bogart's effectively the co-star, albeit fourth-billed behind Robinson, Joan Blondell, and Barton MacLane. But it's Eddie G.'s movie, and he walks the line beautifully as an honest cop who, unjustly jettisoned from the force, signs on with the mobster he's long pursued. Despite a rhetorical reference to "ballots" as the public's means of combatting crime, it's bullets that get the job done. Bullets and fists: the movie makes clear that Robinson has beaten confessions out of people plenty of times, just as it has no illusions about the empty symbolism of crime commissions and grand juries.

The only other Bogart vehicle in the set is San Quentin (Lloyd Bacon, 1937), a scrap-work effort below the standards of everybody involved. Bogart's a small-time crook whose arrest at a nightclub occasions a meet-cute for his big sister Ann Sheridan and Army training officer Pat O'Brien--who's on his way to become yard captain at the penitentiary where Bogart will be interred! O'Brien tries to reform the lad, but with corrupt/sadistic guard Barton MacLane on one side and sociopathic con Joe Sawyer on the other, Bogart never has a chance. Neither does the viewer.

Lloyd Bacon, normally one of Warners' zippiest directors, is back on his game with A Slight Case of Murder (1938), a delicious gangster comedy. Robinson plays beer baron Remy Marco, who craves respectability as a legitimate businessman once beer is legal again. Problem is, nobody has ever had the heart to tell him his product tastes like varnish, and soon the bank is out to foreclose on his brewery. At which point Remy learns that his summer home upstate is full of fresh gangland corpses.... Based on a play by Damon Runyon and Howard Lindsay, the picture gives a trio of glorious goons--Allen Jenkins, Edward Brophy, and Harold Huber--a rare chance to shine as Marco's house staff.

City for Conquest (1940) ought to be the showpiece here. It's the longest and most ambitious entry, with prestige-picture scale and production values (including Polito and James Wong Howe as cameramen) and a cast including Cagney, Ann Sheridan, Arthur Kennedy, Frank McHugh, Donald Crisp, Anthony Quinn, Jerome Cowan, and--in his first of only two film performances--future directorial giant Elia Kazan. Working-stiff Cagney loves his gifted musician brother (Kennedy) and childhood sweetheart (Sheridan), a dancer with her own aspirations for the limelight; he becomes a boxer in order to pay for the brother's musical education. Triumph and tragedy ensue. The film's avowed aim, and Kennedy's, is to create an urban symphony of New York and the many little people striving against all odds to rise; there's even a one-man Greek chorus--Frank Craven, the Stage Manager of the recent Our Town--to hammer the theme periodically. But over the previous decade Warners' honest, hard-charging, small-scale movies had collectively achieved that "symphony," without the pompous flourishes Anatole Litvak's direction brings to the project. Here's hoping DVD showcases more of them. --Richard T. Jameson


Special Features

None.

Product Details

  • Actors: James Cagney, Pat O'Brien, Ann Sheridan, Humphrey Bogart, Joan Blondell
  • Directors: Anatole Litvak, Lloyd Bacon
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Box set, Black & White, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 6
  • Rated:
    NR
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Warner Home Video
  • DVD Release Date: March 25, 2008
  • Run Time: 519 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00114XLUA
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #32,082 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Warner Gangsters Collection, Vol. 2 (Bullets or Ballots / City for Conquest / Each Dawn I Die / G Men / San Quentin / A Slight Case of Murder)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By mrliteral VINE VOICE on January 10, 2008
Format: DVD
The Warner Gangsters Collection Volume 2 is a renamed version of the Tough Guys set issued in mid-2006 (and which still seems to be on sale). What follows is my review of the original set, which should apply to this one as well.

A couple years ago, Warner Brothers issued a top-notch set of its classic gangster movies. Included were such all-time greats as Little Caesar, Public Enemy and White Heat. On the heals of that boxed set, a new one was issued: the Tough Guys boxed set. This companion piece to the Gangster set features slightly less well-known movies but is definitely worth watching.

The big difference in the two sets are the roles of its principal players. In the Gangster set, the stars - in particular, James Cagney and Edward G. Robinson - were criminals. As the studio got more pressure to stop producing movies in which the heroes were crooks, they merely switched their actors from one side of the law to the other.

In more-or-less chronological order, the first in this six-movie set is G-Men, featuring Cagney as a struggling lawyer who joins the fledgling FBI. This puts him at odds with his friend, a genial crime boss who opts to retire rather than contend with Cagney. Unfortunately, his successors are not so nice, setting up a lot of gunplay. Of the three Cagney movies in this set, this is the weakest, although it is still decent.

Also relatively weak is Bullets or Ballots which features Robinson as a cop who joins the mob after he is fired (an obvious ruse that not even the villains totally buy). Once again, there is a "good" mob boss who is Robinson's friend. Humphrey Bogart, in a standard role for him in the 1930s, is a much more evil gangster.

Bogart returns in San Quentin as a small-time crook sent to the title prison.
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Format: DVD
This is a great and worthy companion to the Warner Gangsters Collection Volume 1. However, this collection of films is much more varied than what you found in the first bunch of Warner Gangsters films. It's not so much that we have a pre/post code comparison here of how Warner handled tough guys and gangsters in their films - there were only two precode gangster films in the Gangsters collection. Instead, we have WB's top three tough guys of the 30's - James Cagney, Edward G. Robinson, and Humphrey Bogart - taking the lead in a variety of roles and films that often aren't about guys that are gangster tough, or even cop tough for that matter.

Edward G. Robinson stars in "Bullets or Ballots" and "A Slight Case of Murder". In the first film, he is the hard-working cop turned out to pasture by a past associate the minute that associate gets a promotion. Now, suddenly past offers for employment by underworld figures in return for big bucks look pretty good. Will Robinson's character turn against the system and department he has worked for his whole career? In "A Slight Case of Murder" Robinson ably shows his hand at dark comedy as a gangster who is made legitimate by the end of prohibition. Now he can sell his beer legitimately as a businessman. The only problem is, nobody has the heart to tell him that his beer is awful. To top it all off he takes his family on vacation and finds an unwelcome surprise in his vacation cottage.

James Cagney, Warners' number one gangster picture star of the 30's, shows up in three films. In "G Men" he is a lawyer who decides to go to work for the F.B.I. His education was bought and paid for by a local mobster, and thus his new associates are suspicious of him although Cagney's legal career has been on the up-and-up.
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
It is hard to write a review on classics and there are 60 other reviews related to that and the packaging so I offer something else.

I am slowly but surely moving all that I can to an online collection (legal) that is. Many people have a few movies in the cloud that they have entered via an Ultraviolet Code. These codes then allow you add certain movies when you buy them new, and then access them on nearly any device to stream or better yet to download to things like IPads and Cellphones or onto laptops while traveling or you can even use the Vudu application and stream ultra-high quality movies from your library on your HDTV either directly or through a Roku or many Bluray players. It is pretty difficult to find anything produced more than four or five years ago with Ultraviolet codes so for many of us movie buffs it might seem that using these types of applications are not good options. And, no I am not discussing stealing via torrent or other methods.

But you can actually buy or use you older movies and in many cases they are approved for a disc-to-digital conversion with Vudu. You don't need to convert the movie, you simply put the disc into the computer and pull up the application (free) and once it registers that you actually have physical possession of the movie it will let you convert it into a cloud copy just like Ultraviolet, for much cheaper than buying a copy from them. If you are converting 10 movies you can upgrade DVDs to the highest quality (HDX) for $2.50 each. If you just want the exact same as what you had (DVD quality) it is a dollar (if you convert 10). The catch is a lot of movies don't qualify or are not eligible for this conversion. Out of this set I converted the following:

1. Bullets for Ballots (converted to HDX)
2.
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