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White Heat (DVD)
Academy Award winner James Cagney delivers a tour-de-force performanceas a murderously psychotic criminal mastermind with an overpoweringmother complex in the crime thriller White Heat.While in prison, Cody Jarrett (Cagney) befriends an undercover cop(Edmund O'Brien) posing as a young thug--appearing to idolize thehard-bitten gangster who suffers from semi-epileptic seizures, outburstsof frightening violence and an almost incestuous attachment to hismother. Released from prison, Jarrett plots a seemingly perfect heist,unaware that his partners plan to kill him and his right-hand man isworking for the police. Cornered, Jarrett chooses to go out in anexplosive act of self-immolation rather than surrender in this classicof the gangster genre. Academy Award nomination for Best Writing, MotionPicture Story (Virginia Kellogg.]]>
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I was happy to revisit it again. I'll try not to let so many years go by until I see it again.
The Blu-Ray edition is unquestionably one of the most beautiful film-like transfers I've ever seen in this still young medium. From the first scene of the train approaching through the tunnel, you're hit with the film-like quality of the transfer. Solid, authentic grain throughout, looking exactly how I imagine it would have during the first week of its release in 1948. The transfer is so film-like that when I watched it, I found it impossible to follow the story - the visuals were so breath-taking!
The detail is extremely strong - the texture of a police officer's leather jacket, the palm tree-lined streets of `40s LA, the manufacturer's label on the vacuum tubes of the surveillance equipment. I particularly dug the way that you could tell exactly what the weather was like on the day the outdoor scenes were shot. And the facial detail - WOW!! Such clarity - even the mother looks attractive!
It is deeply satisfying to see this true cinematic masterpiece presented in such a classy fashion. I would put this on the same level as anything I've seen on Criterion. Don't be misled into thinking "old black and white movies" can't benefit from 1080p `cos this sucker does in bucket loads. A gritty transfer that truly matches the edgy subject matter and should be held up as an excellent example of what Blu Ray can offer.
Cagney's Cody Jarrett, driven by suffocating mother love and searing headaches, is nothing less than spectacular. There are almost too many great scenes to describe. The two greatest are Cagney's "white-heat" maddened scramble down the jail mess tables. Accompanied by his guttural, surreal moaning it is a brilliant piece of acting. Secondly, if you have never watched the final scene you will want to see it many times over again. It is unmatched in its visual effect for that period and even more famous for Jarrett's explosive oedipal scream.
Virginia Mayo is terrific as the sensual Verna Jarrett, Cody's wife. She is able to exude attraction to Jarrett's power, and frustration at her inability to compete in her rivalry with "Ma." Jarrett. Verna reaches out for Big Ed Somers (Steve Cochran) while Jarrett serves jail time. Somers is a handsome, tough-talking and ambitious member of Cody's gang, but much to Verna's dismay she can no more convert Big Ed's big talk into action than she can compete with Ma for Cody's attention.
Her failure to seduce Somers into a challenge of Jarrett's gang leadership leads to another great and chilling scene. As Verna rounds a corner of the gang's hideout she walks right into the fearsomely volatile Cody, unexpectedly out of prison. Cody has not come home for the holidays. Ma has clued her boy in.
Margaret Wycherly's Ma Jarrett is crude on the surface but sly and wonderfully nuanced thanks to Wycherly's performance. She is a woman who has given birth to a psychopath and lives vicariously through his power, while subliminally feeding his demons. We may know Freud and Oedipus, she just knows that her boy belongs on top of the world.
If you miss this movie you truly will miss the groundbreaking best of the gangster movie genre. I do take issue with classifying this movie as film noir. It is an outstanding bridge between the gangster movie and the film noir genre; but it is "gangster" at heart and at its best.
Most recent customer reviews
Classic film noir, brilliant acting by all hands, fun to watch several times to remind...Read more