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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, July 21, 2006

Favorite tough guys rule in 'Film Noir' collection

By Terry Lawson
Detroit Free Press

In the first half of the 20th century, Hollywood's movie studios were run like companies instead of financing and distribution centers. Each studio had its house style, producing films that reflected the preferences, personal or business-wise, of the people who ran them. Warner Brothers was known for social realism, a euphemism for contemporary crime films.

Though often cheaply produced, their unadorned rawness, compared with the more sentimental films of the day, has worn well as has the appeal of contract players like Humphrey Bogart, Jimmy Cagney, Edward G. Robinson and George Raft.

Warner has been the industry leader when it comes to themed box-set collections like the new "Film Noir Collection Vol. 3." Three of the six films are directed by William Keighly, including the centerpiece, 1935's " 'G' Men," starring Cagney as an ambitious kid from the New York streets whose law-school tab is paid by a local gangster. When a G-man pal is murdered, Cagney picks up the torch and joins the FBI in time to be part of some of the agency's most storied escapades.

Cagney was next cast as a reporter framed by corrupt politicians and thrown behind bars with convict Raft in Keighly's 1936 prison drama "Each Dawn I Die." Keighly directed the same year's "Bullets or Ballots," whose corrupt-government plot is encapsulated in the title. It has Robinson as an honest cop hounded off the force and gone to work for his former mobster nemesis much to the distress of the mobster's suspicious No. 2, Bogart.

Lloyd Bacon made "A Slight Case of Murder," in 1938, a gangster comedy, with Robinson as a Prohibition bootlegger who goes legit after the alcohol ban is lifted.

The set is completed by a more serious urban social commentary, "City for Conquest," with Cagney on the other side of the deal made in " 'G' Men" becoming a boxer to help his talented brother, played by Arthur Kennedy, to go to music school.

Extras include commentaries, period cartoons, newsreels and shorts.