If you are a film buff, especially if you are a fan of the gangster movies of the thirties and forties and American film noir, Public Enemies The Golden Age of the Gangster Film is a must. This documentary DVD is part of the Warner Brothers Gangsters Collection Volume 4 and it alone makes this crime movie box set almost impossible to pass up.
Public Enemies The Golden Age of the Gangster Film does what too few documentaries about film do: actually show clips of the movies and stars being discussed. This DVD has a clip of every film noir or gangster movie star being discussed. The documentary itself is quite thorough when it comes to the genre until the late forties and even reaches back to the first Edison movies.
In terms of movie experts, this documentary features a who’s who: Foster Hirsch, Dr, Drew Casper, Martin Scorsese, silent film historian Anthony Slide, Leonard Maltin (hmmm), Dana Polan, Glenn Mitchell, novelist and film critic Kim Newman, Anthony Slide, and so on and so on.
This documentary is very well balanced. Classic Warner Brothers gangster films are discussed; so are major releases from the other studios. It discusses the contributions of Edward G. Robinson and Jimmy Cagney as well as that of others such as Joan Blondell.
Public Enemies The Golden Age of the Gangster Film touches on just about any aspect of the movies: history, social context, language, personalities, behind the scenes stories, classics such as Little Caesar, the role of women in these films, the influence of these films on movies in general, the importance of certain writers, and so on.
The one weakness in this film documentary DVD is it says little about the change the Hays Code brought to the genre in 1930.
Extra features on Public Enemies The Golden Age of the Gangster Film are 5 Warner Brothers Merrie Melodies or Looney Tunes gangster-themed cartoons. The only good ones are Racketeer Rabbit with Bugs Bunny and a cartoon version of Edward G Robinson and Peter Lorre and Bugs and Thugs where the rabbit confronts Boss and Mugsy. You’ll notice one of the gags is repeated in both cartoons.
Warner Brothers Gangsters Collection Volume 4 includes: The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse (1938) with Edward G. Robinson and Humphrey Bogart; Invisible Stripes (1939) with George Raft, William Holden, and Humphrey Bogart; Kid Galahad (1937) with Edward G. Robinson and Bette Davis; the gangster comedy Larceny Inc (1942) with Robinson and Jane Wyman; and The Little Giant (1933) with Robinson and Mary Astor.