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Ultimate Gangsters Collection: Classics(1931-1949)
See individual titles for their synopses
For more about Ultimate Gangsters Collection: Classics and the Ultimate Gangsters Collection: Classics Blu-ray release, see Ultimate Gangsters Collection: Classics Blu-ray Review published by Michael Reuben on May 19, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: James Cagney, Leslie Howard, Edward G. Robinson, Virginia Mayo, Jean Harlow, Bette Davis
Directors: Raoul Walsh, William A. Wellman, Archie Mayo, Mervyn LeRoy
This Blu-ray bundle includes the following titles, see individual titles for specs and details:
Ultimate Gangsters Collection: Classics Blu-ray Review
Stick 'Em Up!
Reviewed by Michael Reuben, May 19, 2013
Simultaneously with their individual release on Blu-ray, Warner Home Video is issuing a box set of four black-and-white films from the Thirties and Forties, each of them a bona fide classic from the era when the studio was the undisputed king of crime pictures. With the exception of Little Caesar, which suffers from some source damage, the audio and video presentations are top notch, and the box set has the advantage of a fifth disc (unfortunately a DVD) with a terrific documentary produced for Turner Classic Movies on the history of the gangster film. The individual films and their extras are reviewed separately; links are listed below. The audio and video reviews have been reproduced here for ease of reference.
For further discussion and screenshots of Little Caesar, please see the Little Caesar Blu-ray review. For further discussion and screenshots of The Public Enemy, please see The Public Enemy Blu-ray review. For further discussion and screenshots of The Petrified Forest, please see The Petrified Forest Blu-ray review. For further discussion and screenshots of White Heat, please see the White Heat Blu-ray review.
Ultimate Gangsters Collection: Classics Blu-ray, Video Quality
Little Caesar 3.5/5 The major issues with Warner's 1080p, AVC-encoded Blu-ray of Little Caesar are inseparable from the source material, which, despite efforts at clean-up, still suffers from obvious damage. A significant number of vertical scratches last anywhere from a few seconds to half a minute. None of them renders any of the image unwatchable, but they are quite noticeable. Frames are missing in several spots, causing obvious jumps. Fortunately, none of these breaks occur at key moments in the drama. For the rest, Warner has provided a nicely film-like transfer, with natural-looking grain, deep blacks, well-balanced contrast allowing proper delineation of shades of gray, and reasonably good detail for a film of this vintage. The quality of the image varies from somewhat soft to astonishingly sharp (e.g., in a sequence of a funeral procession). I was not at all surprised to see the average bitrate come in at 29.34 Mbps. With the film in black-and-white and substantial screen space devoted to the black "windowbox" bars, major compression should not be an issue with this 79-minute film. Barring the discovery of superior elements, or a laborious frame-by-frame repair of the damaged sections, Little Caesar is unlikely to look better. For screenshots, please see the Little Caesar Blu-ray review. The Public Enemy 4.5/5 Although The Public Enemy is only one year older than Little Caesar, its source material is in considerably better shape, with only an occasional vertical scratch betraying the age of the element and no missing frames or jumps. Once again, Warner has provided a nicely film-like transfer on this 1080p, AVC-encoded Blu-ray. The image features natural-looking grain, deep blacks, well-balanced contrast allowing proper delineation of shades of gray, and detail that is consistently impressive for a film from this era. Even for viewers who have seen The Public Enemy many times, I suspect this version will be a revealing experience, because the Blu-ray allows the viewer to savor every nuance of Cagney's expressively detailed performance in a way that has not been previously possible outside of a screening room. This is one of the quintessential gangster films as it was meant to be seen. For screenshots, please see The Public Enemy Blu-ray review. The Petrified Forest 4.5/5 The Petrified Forest was shot by Sol Polito, one of the studio's top cinematographers during the Thirties and Forties and a key architect of the Warner visual style in that period. The source material for this 1080p, AVC-encoded Blu-ray has been wonderfully preserved (or restored) with minimal visible damage and none of the major scratches or frame jumps that are visible on Little Caesar. Sharpness and detail are impressive for a film of this vintage, in large part due to the transfer's accurately rendered blacks, properly calibrated whites and correctly graduated shades of gray. Polito was noted for his ability to light Bette Davis, and at times in The Petrified Forest she almost pops out of the frame, although you can't quite identify where the additional light is coming from. Detail doesn't falter even in the brief sequence where several characters leave the diner and venture out into the night. The surroundings become darker, but faces and objects remain readily identifiable. The grain structure is natural and film-like without being obvious or intrusive. No digital manipulation that would generate noise, ringing or other undesirable artifacts appears to have been performed, and the healthy average bitrate of 24.00 Mbps is consistent with the lack of any observed compression errors. For screenshots, please see The Petrified Forest Blu-ray review. White Heat 5/5 White Heat was shot by director Walsh's frequent collaborator Sidney Hickox, a highly regarded Warner cinematographer, who also shot To Have and Have Not and The Big Sleep for Howard Hawks. Hickox's gritty, realistic style is beautifully represented on Warner's 1080p, AVC-encoded picture, for which the source material is in pristine shape. The detail is exceptional, the blacks are deep and solid, the contrast is excellent and the finely delineated shades of gray give the image substance and depth. The film's grain pattern is fine and natural-looking, and Warner has used a BD-50 for this 113-minute film (the longest of the four included in the Ultimate Gangsters Collection: Classics box set), which allows for an average bitrate of 28.97 Mbps. This is a first-rate presentation of one of the glories of Warner's catalog. For screenshots, please see the White Heat Blu-ray review.
Ultimate Gangsters Collection: Classics Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Little Caesar 4.0/5 The film's mono soundtrack is encoded as lossless DTS-HD MA 1.0, and it's a pleasure to hear Robinson's distinctive speech patterns as Rico at such high fidelity. The clarity doesn't do all that much of the rest of the dialogue a favor, though, because many of the remaining performances are quite weak. However, Thomas E. Jackson's turn as the sarcastic Lt. Flaherty—the second best performance in the film—comes through better than I've ever heard it before. The various pistols and machine guns don't have anything like the punch of today's movie weaponry, but they make enough of a statement for a gangster film of this era. The sparely used underscoring has been attributed to composer David Mendoza, who is uncredited. The Public Enemy 4.0/5 The film's mono soundtrack is encoded as lossless DTS-HD MA 1.0, and it's a fine track. Cagney's distinctive rhythms and intonations are reproduced with all the clarity of the original Vitaphone recording, and they're all the more vivid for the contrast with the various tones and accents from the remaining cast, whether it's Robert O'Connor's Irish lilt as Paddy Ryan or Jean Harlow's undisguised Bronx intonation. Most of the violence occurs off-screen, but the gunshots are numerous and have a decent impact for a Thirties film. The film has no original score; all of the music is so-called "source" music that has been carefully chosen for deliberate effect. Chief among the selections is "I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles", which recurs in different versions throughout the film. Each version has just the right sound on the track. The Petrified Forest 4.0/5 The film's original mono track is included in lossless DTS-HD MA 1.0, and it sounds just fine, with a nice balance of clear vocals, desert winds, radio bulletins and the sounds of a working diner. There's an appropriately moody score by Warner in-house composer Bernhard Kaun (uncredited), but by far the greatest challenge for the film's audio track is reproducing Leslie Howard's nimble vocal performance. He delivers a lot of dialogue, often very fast, with all the practiced ease of an experienced British thespian. White Heat 4.0/5 The film's original mono soundtrack is presented as lossless DTS-HD MA 1.0, and it's impressive. White Heat may only have one channel of sound, but the mix is elaborate, whether it's the noises of the train intermingling with the intrusion of Cody's gang in the opening sequence, or the stew of sound effects in the prison cafeteria scene, or the cacophony during the attempted payroll heist at the end of the film. Listen closely, and there are plenty of individual noises to pick out. The Blu-ray track's fidelity and dynamic range are good enough to let your ears be engaged by everything the engineers put there. Three-time Oscar winner Max Steiner wrote the intense score, which has an exploitation film vibe to it while somehow remaining classy. I'd love to hear it in full 5.1 surround, but it sounds quite good in this mono version.
Ultimate Gangsters Collection: Classics Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Extras for each film are discussed separately under the film's individual review. The box set contains a separate DVD with additional extras and a printed hardcover insert similar in design to the Warner digibooks.
Ultimate Gangsters Collection: Classics Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
One can only hope that the Ultimate Gangsters Collection: Classics will turn out to be Volume 1, with many more volumes to follow, because these four films only scratch the surface of Warner's prodigious output in the crime and gangster genre during the era before television and antitrust litigation ended the old studio system. In the meantime, this box set is an excellent value, especially with its fifth disc of extras. Highly recommended.
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Ultimate Gangsters Collection: Classics Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Little Ceasar, The Public Enemy, The Petrified Forest & White Hea... - March 14, 2013
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment has announced the standalone, single-disc Blu-ray releases of Little Caesar, The Public Enemy, The Petrified Forest and White Heat. All four catalog titles arrive individually and as part of The Ultimate Gangster Collection Classic ...
• Warner Bros. Ultimate Gangster Collections, Contemporary and Cla... - March 11, 2013
Warner Bros. has released updated information on its upcoming Blu-ray sets of The Ultimate Gangster Collections, Contemporary and Classic. The contemporary package includes Mean Streets, Goodfellas, Heat and The Departed, while the classic includes Little ...
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