December 6, 2021


1939 / 97 min


Review by Mr. Paws😹

Classic crime films don’t get much better than this…

Raised in the slums, lifelong friends “Rocky” Sullivan & Jerry Connolly are a couple of streetwise kids who eventually end up on opposite sides of the law. As an adult, Rocky (James Cagney) becomes a powerful gangster. Returning to the old neighborhood after a stint in jail, he’s admired by many of the locals, especially a group of impressionable young hoods. Conversely, Jerry (Pat O’Brien) becomes a priest, remaining in the neighborhood as a mentor for troubled teens (including the same kids hoping to emulate Rocky’s quick road to riches).

Meanwhile, Rocky’s former partner, crooked lawyer Jim Frazier (Humphrey Bogart), has since hooked up with powerful mob boss Mac Keefer (George Bancroft). Both want Rocky eliminated, not just because of the money they owe him, but because he’s getting too big for his britches, blackmailing his way into a new partnership. However, the crux of the story is the relationship between the two friends. Though they’ve chosen different paths, these guys share mutual love and respect, even as Jerry tries to steer the kids clear of Rocky’s influence. Similarly, when Jerry leads a public anti-corruption campaign, Rocky won’t allow Keefer & Frazier to silence him, despite the immediate threat to their organization.

Apparently, Rocky enjoyed a burrito for his last meal.
Like the greatest epic crime sagas, Angels with Dirty Faces works on many levels. First, it’s a moving - ultimately poignant - tale of friendship. The complexity of Rocky & Jerry’s relationship is thoroughly explored, it’s stars providing extra punch with a couple of knock-out performances. Perhaps as a result of the burgeoning Hays Code, it’s also a cautionary tale of redemption, a theme punctuated by the stirring, intriguingly ambiguous final act (Rocky’s “death row” walk is arguably Cagney’s greatest screen moment).

But most importantly, the film remains massively entertaining all these years later. Director Michael Curtiz deftly juggles a compelling story, dynamic characters, hard-hitting action and an unforgettable climax, making Angels with Dirty Faces an undisputed classic. With an outstanding Blu-ray transfer and some great vintage bonus features, it’s a must-own for any self-respecting film fan.


WARNER NIGHT AT THE MOVIES - Leonard Maltin introduces a batch of vintage goodies that used to play in theaters before the feature, including a newsreel, “Out Where the Stars Begin” (musical short), “Porky and Daffy (cartoon short) and some trailers. Includes a ‘view all’ option.

ANGELS WITH DIRTY FACES: WHADDYA HEAR? WHADDYA SAY? - Severa; historian discuss the film’s production and influence.

AUDIO COMMENTARY - By historian Dana Polan.

LUX RADIO THEATER - An hour-long radio adaptation, featuring Cagney and O’Brien.

No comments: