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G-MEN VS. GANGSTERS
on November 3, 2014
After the Motion Picture Production Code was enforced in 1934, the gangster genre, which before had more or less glamorized the criminal's lifestyle, now began to make a concentrated effort to depict lawmen as heroes.
Two movies were released in 1935 that championed the newly re-structured Department of Justice which became known as The Federal Bureau of Investigation. Warner Bros. gave us G-MEN with former gangster James Cagney on the side of the law, and United Artists answered with LET 'EM HAVE IT. Both are rapidly paced, hard-hitting dramas that follow the officers' training and focus on the FBI's methods of detecting crime, besides offering the customary tommy gun-blazing action.
Tautly directed by Sam Wood, LET 'EM HAVE IT stars Richard Arlen, Harvey Stevens, and Gordon Jones as a trio of newly recruited federal agents assigned to break up a kidnapping/robbery racket run by cold-blooded hood Bruce Cabot. Virginia Bruce and Eric Linden co-star as brother and sister socialites for whom Cabot was employed as chauffeur. Linden joins the Bureau upon Arlen's recommendation and moves in on Cabot, who promptly murders his former employer. A couple of more twists in the plot ensue before the final shoot 'em up climax.
There are a few things about LET 'EM HAVE IT that distinguish it from your run of the mill cops and robbers yarn. The scenes depicting the FBI's utilization of forensics and ballistics circa 1935 are interesting, and all the performances are solid. A particular standout is Bruce Cabot who, only two years prior had his breakthrough role as the hero in KING KONG. Here, he's an embittered killer with the single-minded ambition to acquire a million dollars. Along the way he decides to visit a plastic surgeon and have his face altered to avoid detection. The scene where Cabot's bandages are removed is surprising and chilling when it's revealed that the doctor had carved the mobster's initials on his face.
The Sony DVD of LET 'EM HAVE IT looks nice and sharp, with well balanced contrast and gray levels. The soundtrack is clean with dialogue registering loud and clear. There's a chapter index but no extras.
A fine, action filled thriller, LET 'EM HAVE IT is well recommended for classic film buffs.