Friday, May 24, 2013

Blu-ray Set Review: Ultimate Gangsters Collection: Classics

On May 21st Warner Bros. released a terrific new Blu-ray set, Ultimate Gangsters Collection: Classics.

The set contains four true classics of the genre: LITTLE CAESAR (1931), THE PUBLIC ENEMY (1931), THE PETRIFIED FOREST (1936), and WHITE HEAT (1949).

Two of the films, THE PUBLIC ENEMY and WHITE HEAT, star James Cagney, while LITTLE CAESAR made Edward G. Robinson a star and THE PETRIFIED FOREST stars Humphrey Bogart.

All four of these films were newly remastered for Blu-ray, and they look wonderful, especially WHITE HEAT. Of all the films in the set, this is the one that really blew me away, in terms of both the film itself and the Blu-ray print quality. I only own a handful of Blu-ray discs and really enjoyed seeing just how good a classic film can look on Blu-ray.

Each disc imports the plentiful extras from the standard DVD releases of a few years ago. University of Southern California Cinematic Arts professors Rick Jewell and Drew Casper provide commentary tracks on LITTLE CAESAR and WHITE HEAT, respectively, while Bogart biographer Eric Lax provides commentary for THE PETRIFIED FOREST and Robert Sklar does the honors for THE PUBLIC ENEMY.

Additional extras include featurettes and Leonard Maltin hosting the "Warner Night at the Movies" with shorts, newsreels, and cartoons preceding each feature film. The featurettes are very worthwhile, with insights from experts including Martin Scorsese, Drew Casper, Alain Silver, Andrew Sarris, and more. I particularly enjoyed Drew Casper's comment in the WHITE HEAT featurette that gangster films allowed the audience a vicarious "walk on the wild side."

The Ultimate Gangsters Collection also includes a standard DVD containing the 2008 documentary PUBLIC ENEMIES: THE GOLDEN AGE OF THE GANGSTER FILM. Having seen it a couple of years ago, I didn't rewatch it for this review; I recall it as being enjoyable though somewhat overlong, clocking in at an hour and 45 minutes according to IMDb.

A very nice plus new to the Blu-ray collection is a beautifully produced 32-page booklet which provides brief background and thoughts on each film, along with some very well-chosen photos.

I'd previously only seen one of the films, LITTLE CAESAR, which I reviewed after watching the standard DVD in February. The Blu-ray version looks great.

I've written full-length reviews for WHITE HEAT and THE PUBLIC ENEMY which are being posted simultaneously with this review of the overall set; a separate review of THE PETRIFIED FOREST will also be posted in the near future, and I'll update this post with the link as soon as it's available. (Update: Here it is!)

The Ultimate Gangsters Collection: Classics can be purchased online from the WB Shop.

It can also be found at Amazon, Deep Discount, and Barnes & Noble.

For those who may be interested, Warner Bros. simultaneously released another Blu-ray set, Ultimate Gangsters Collection: Contemporary.

Thanks to Warner Bros. for providing a review copy of this excellent set.


Blogger Raquel Stecher said...

Great review Laura! I agree that the documentary was overly long. It felt a bit repetitious and I kind of gave up. I think it's the weakest part of the set and it's the biggest bonus material too. I did enjoy the quality of these films on blu-ray and noticed in particular how nice Petrified Forest looked.

6:02 AM  

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