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William Keighley
James Cagney, Margaret Lindsay, Ann Dvorak, Robert Armstrong, Barton MacLane, Lloyd Nolan, William Harrigan, Russell Hopton, Edward Pawley, Noel Madison
Writing Credits:
Darryl F. Zanuck (novel, "Public Enemy No. 1"), Seton I. Miller

Hollywood's Most Famous Bad Man Joins the "G Men" and Halts the March of Crime!

It's the early days of the F.B.I. - federal agents working for the Department of Justice. Though they've got limited powers - they don't carry weapons and have to get local police approval for arrests - that doesn't stop fresh Law School grad Eddie Buchanan from joining up, and he encourages his former roommate James "Brick" Davis (James Cagney) to do so as well. But Davis wants to be an honest lawyer, not a shyster, despite his ties to mobster boss McKay, and he's intent on doing so, until Buchanan is gunned down trying to arrest career criminal Danny Leggett. Davis soon joins the "G-Men" as they hunt down Leggett (soon-to-be Public Enemy Number One) and his cronies Collins and Durfee, who are engaged in a crime and murder spree from New York to the midwest.

Box Office:
$450 thousand.

Rated NR

Fullscreen 1.33:1
English Monaural

Runtime: 86 min.
Price: $19.97
Release Date: 7/18/2006

• Audio Commentary with Film Historian Richard Jewell
• “Morality and the Code: A How-To Manual for Hollywood” Featurette
• “Warner Night at the Movies” Short Subjects Gallery
• “How I Play Golf by Bobby Jones No. 11: Practice Shots” Short
• “Things You Never See On the Screen” Blooper Reel
• Trailer


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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"G" Men (1935)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (July 18, 2006)

After 1931’s The Public Enemy made James Cagney one of the silver screen’s best-known gangsters, he turned to the side of the law with 1935’s ”G” Men. Fresh out of law school, Joseph “Brick” Davis (Cagney) finds his practice isn’t doing too well. His old college buddy Eddie (Regis Toomey) works for the Department of Justice, and he tries to convince Brick to join him. For the time being, however, Brick remains content to pursue his career as an attorney.

That attitude changes when thugs kill Eddie in the line of duty. Brick immediately signs up with the DOJ and becomes an agent. He receives tutelage from Jeff McCord (Robert Armstrong), though the pair develop an instant dislike for each other. Brick doesn’t extend that attitude toward McCord’s sister Kay (Margaret Lindsay), as he puts the moves on her. She takes after her brother, however, and resists Brick’s charms.

Much of the story concentrates on the search for mobster Danny Leggett (Edward Pawley), the man who shot Eddie. The authorities finally nab the crook, but this arrest doesn’t stick because his cohorts gun down the authorities. That event launches changes in the laws to arm the agents, and the movie follows their all-out assault on the gangsters. We also see Brick’s romantic developments as he pursues Kay.

Since some thought flicks like The Public Enemy glorified gangsters, I guess the studios felt the need to go in the other direction. That’s where ”G” Men comes into play. Little more than a love letter to the authorities, the movie packs some decent action but lacks a real purpose.

Its awkward pacing creates many of the concerns. The film proceeds in a jerky manner and rarely bothers to pursue a clear line of progress. This doesn’t just affect the story telling, though. Specific scenes suffer from odd cinematic conventions. For instance, characters usually fail to interact naturally. When McCord laughs at Brick’s misfortune, he doesn’t guffaw immediately. Instead, there’s a pause in his reaction as he waits for the camera to cut to him. I suppose this may have seemed acceptably 70 years ago, but now it becomes disconcerting. I don’t expect there to be Altman-like overlapping dialogue, but something a little more natural would be nice.

Other aspects of the film lack believability. Take the relationship between McCord and Brick, for example. McCord immediately dislikes Brick for no apparent reason. Sure, people do sometimes make this kind of snap judgement on others, but the depth of his disdain for Brick causes a disconnect in logic. The character development exists solely to serve the plot, as it lacks naturalness.

All that said, I can’t claim that ”G” Men doesn’t come with entertainment value. Some of the gangster-related elements offer interest, and the story tosses out enough plot twists to keep us involved. The actors do their best with the material offered to them, though there’s only so much they can bring to the stiff exposition. The flick’s brief enough to keep us with it, but don’t expect a lot from it.

Note that the version presented here includes a prologue added in 1949.

The DVD Grades: Picture B-/ Audio B-/ Bonus B

”G” Men appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; due to those dimensions, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. This wasn’t one of the best transfers I’ve seen for a Thirties movie, but it mostly satisfied.

Sharpness was usually fine. Some scenes were a bit soft, and the film could come across as a little ill-defined at times. However, the majority of the flick was acceptably concise and accurate. I noticed no signs of jagged edges or shimmering, but some light edge enhancement appeared.

Blacks worked well, as they were deep and taut. Contrast was solid, and low-light shots seemed smooth and distinct. Source flaws were a periodic concern. A fair amount of grain showed up, and I noticed examples of specks, blotches, grit, stripes and tears. These remained acceptably modest for a 71-year-old movie, though they created occasional distractions. Overall, this was a good image.

I felt the same way about the decent monaural soundtrack of ”G” Men. Speech tended to be a little brittle, but the lines were intelligible from start to finish. Music showed the restricted tones I expected. The score showed no real concerns, though, as it only suffered from this lack of heft. Effects were similarly thin but acceptable. The mix failed to deliver much range, which I expected. Some hiss showed up but no other source concerns occurred. Ultimately, this was an acceptable track.

When we head to the DVD’s supplements, we open with an audio commentary from film historian Richard Jewell. He provides a running, screen-specific discussion. Jewell talks about the movie’s 1949 prologue, the influence of studio executive Hal Wallis, cast and crew, the state of gangster flicks in the mid-Thirties and the effect of the Production Code, some history of the FBI and gangsters, Warner’s hopes for a new series of films, and the film’s reception and impact.

On the negative side, Jewell sometimes tends to simply narrate the movie, and a little dead air occurs. Nonetheless, he manages to fill his commentary with a lot of worthwhile material. He digs into the Warner archives for a number of fascinating tidbits and helps make this a rich and informative discussion despite some flaws.

As with the other DVDs in the “Tough Guy Collection”, ”G” Men comes with Warner Night at the Movies. This attempts to replicate the cinematic experience circa 1935. This feature starts with a preview for Devil Dogs of the Air. We also get a period newsreel, an animated short called Buddy the Gee Man and a Bob Hope short entitled The Old Gray Mayor. These are the kinds of pieces that might have preceded a theatrical showing of ”G” Men, so if you activate this feature, you get an attempt to duplicate a night at the cinema. I continue to really like this presentation.

Next comes a new featurette called Morality and the Code: A How-To Manual for Hollywood. This 20-minute and 35-second piece features movie snippets and interviews. We find notes from Jewell, film historians Lincoln D. Hurst, Patricia King Hanson, Anthony Slide, Eric Lax, Vivian Sobchack, Drew Gasper and Haden Guest, producers Irwin Winkler and Robert Evans, filmmakers Frank Miller, Larry Cohen, Lili Fini Zanuck and Martin Scorsese, screenwriter Michael B. Druxman, and actors Talia Shire, Theresa Russell and Michael Madsen. The show looks at the development and implementation of the Production Code and its restrictions. We also see ways the studios tried to work around the Code as well as how actors adapted.

Though some of these “Tough Guy” featurettes have been spotty, “Code” is pretty good. It concentrates more concisely on its subject than many of the others, and it offers a nice summation of its subject. We find a reasonably solid overview of Code-related issues in this interesting program.

Another vintage featurette pops up after this. We find How I Play Golf by Bobby Jones No. 11: Practice Shots. The 10-minute and 33-second program throws us onto the course with the legendary golfer as he provides some lessons. Why is it here? Because James Cagney makes an appearance along with other actors of the era. That means it offers a fun addition to the package.

In addition to the film’s trailer, we find Things You Never See On the Screen. This blooper reel runs nine minutes and 56 seconds as it presents the traditional roster of blunders and flubs. Its age makes it a little more interesting than most of its ilk.

”G” Men has its occasional moments, mainly when it gets into its action. Unfortunately, it comes with thin characters and a lot of awkward development. Those serve to make it an illogical, artificial exercise. The DVD presents decent picture and audio. It also tosses in some pretty good extras. This isn’t a stellar release, but if the film interests you, it’s worth a look.

Note that you can buy ”G” Men alone or as part of a six-movie “Tough Guys Collection”. The latter packages Men with San Quentin, Each Dawn I Die, A Slight Case of Murder, Bullets or Ballots , and City for Conquest. This set is a steal for folks who want to own the various movies. It retails for about $60, which equals the list price of three of the DVDs separately. It’s like a “buy three, get three free” deal and is a real bargain.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.8888 Stars Number of Votes: 9
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