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Raoul Walsh
James Cagney, Humphrey Bogart, Priscilla Lane
Writing Credits:
Jerry Wald, Richard Macaulay, Robert Rossen

Three men attempt to make a living in Prohibitionist America after returning home from fighting together in World War I.

Rated NR.

Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
Dolby Vision
English PCM Monaural
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 107 min.
Price: $49.95
Release Date: 2/27/2024

• Audio Commentary With Film Historian Lincoln Hurst
• Interview with Film Critic Gary Giddins
• 1973 Interview with Director Raoul Walsh
• Trailer
• Booklet
• Blu-ray Copy


-LG OLED65C6P 65-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart OLED TV
-Marantz SR7010 9.2 Channel Full 4K Ultra HD AV Surround Receiver
-Sony UBP-X700 4K Ultra HD Dolby Vision Blu-ray Player
-Chane A2.4 Speakers
-SVS SB12-NSD 12" 400-watt Sealed Box Subwoofer


The Roaring Twenties: Criterion Collection [4K UHD] (1939)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (February 14, 2024)

Hollywood legends Humphrey Bogart and James Cagney partnered together on screen three times. For the last of these pairings, we go to 1939’s The Roaring Twenties.

Eddie Bartlett (Cagney), George Hally (Bogart) and Lloyd Hart (Jeffrey Lynn) meet in a foxhole during World War I combat and become pals. When they return to the States after the armistice, Lloyd becomes a lawyer, George gets into bootleg liquor, and Eddie drives a cab.

Eddie struggles to eke out a living and he eventually uses taxis to transport illegal booze. This continues through the 1920s, as he becomes a mogul who also encounters romantic snarls.

Given that Roaring hit screens less than a decade after the 1920s ended, it feels strange to see how folks already romanticized that era. I guess this makes sense given all the issues that plagued Americans in the 1930s.

By 1939, the US – and the world – suffered from a decade of the Great Depression, and with the German invasion of Poland in September 1939, we saw the unofficial start of World War II. In the face of all that, the frisky, footloose and fancy-free 1920s must’ve looked pretty good.

Whatever the case, Roaring uses that setting as the framework for a perfectly ordinary mix of crime story, drama and romance. As much as the film wants to milk the prior decade for nostalgia and topical material, the end result feels trite.

Most of the movie concentrates on various love interests, and Roaring can’t find anything interesting to do with these themes. They play out in a schmaltzy, predictable manner that means we never invest in them.

That goes for the crime-related aspects of Roaring as well. While Eddie turns into a successful bootlegger, his ascent comes without drama and lacks real intrigue.

Eddie just feels like the kind of character Cagney could play in his sleep – and maybe he did. He specialized in this sort of gangster, and Eddie lacks anything to differentiate him from the rest of the Cagney oeuvre.

Beyond his inherent lack of real personality, that is. Eddie just feels like a stock Cagney role that no one bothered to flesh out beyond that.

This becomes a particular problem because Roaring largely revolves around Eddie. After the opening, we lose sight of George until more than halfway through the film, and Lloyd remains a background role much of the time.

Once George re-enters the story, matters pick up a smidgen, mainly because viewers like the sight of Cagney and Bogart together. Even though they find themselves stuck with stock characters, their joint charisma makes their shared scenes semi-compelling.

Unfortunately, this can’t overcome the relentless mediocrity of Roarding Twenties. The film just doesn’t generate the heat and drama it needs to become more than meh.

The Disc Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B/ Bonus B-

The Roaring Twenties appears in an aspect ratio of 1.37:1 on this 4K UHD Disc. This became a nice Dolby Vision transfer.

Sharpness looked largely solid. Some wides lacked great delineation, but the image usually seemed well-defined. No jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and I saw no edge haloes.

With a nice layer of grain, I suspected no intrusive digital noise reduction, and print flaws failed to mar the presentation. Blacks seemed dark and rich, while contrast appeared appealing.

Shadows came across as smooth and concise. HDR gave whites and contrast added kick. Criterion usually does right by these older movies, and Roaring offered another fine image.

While not in the same league as the picture, the LPCM monaural soundtrack of Roaring also worked well. Speech seemed reasonably accurate and distinct, with no issues related to intelligibility or edginess. Music came across as fairly bright and lively, though dynamic range seemed limited given the restrictions of the source.

Effects were similarly modest but they showed good clarity and accuracy within the confines of 85-year-old stems. This was a more than adequate auditory presentation for an older movie.

How did the 4K UHD compare to the Criterion Blu-ray? Both came with identical audio.

As for the Dolby Vision 4K’s image, it showed moderate improvements in terms of delineation, blacks and contrast. While the 4K didn’t blow away the Blu-ray, it fared better.

When we move to extras, we open with an audio commentary from film historian Lincoln Hurst. Recorded for a 2005 DVD, Hurst offers a running, screen-specific look at cast and crew, historical elements, story and characters, and some production notes.

While Hurst provides a moderate mix of useful details, he tends to simply narrate the movie too much of the time. That leaves this as an inconsistent commentary.

We get more extras on the included Blu-ray copy, where we find an Inteview with Film Critic Gary Giddins. This piece runs 21 minutes, 51 seconds.

Giddins reflects on gangster flicks of the era as well as other genre and period domains, his appraisal of Roaring Twenties and some production topics. Giddins offers a positive overview and appreciation.

In addition to the film’s trailer, we find an excerpt from a 1973 episode of The Men Who Made the Movies. This segment lasts four minutes, 34 seconds and features a chat with Roaring Twenties director Raoul Walsh.

Here Walsh tells us about the actors and some thoughts about Hollywood of its era. The clip spends most of its time on movie clips and we get maybe one minute tops from Walsh, so don’t expect substance here.

The package finishes with a booklet the offers credits and an essay from critic Mark Asch. While not one of Criterion’s best booklets, it adds value to the set.

With two Hollywood legends in tow, one might expect greatness from The Roaring Twenties - and apparently many regard it as a classic. I don’t get that POV, as I find a spotty, trite tale without any real spark. The 4K UHD boasts solid picture and audio along with a mix of bonus features. Chalk up Roaring as a dull disappointment.

To rate this film, visit the prior review of THE ROARING TWENTIES

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