Dead End is a classic, but one that's pretty much been forgotten these days and is rarely revived on TV, let along the reissue circuit. It's a shame, because alongside the crusading social drama it's also one of the most strikingly designed and magnificently shot films of the Thirties thanks to Greg Toland's remarkable photography and Richard Day's marvellous set. Almost every shot in the film is extraordinarily imaginative - not just beautifully composed, but also absolutely right for the scene. And in William Wyler's hands, it still works pretty well as drama despite the plethora of stereotypes. Joel McRea, the most unjustly forgotten star of the 30s, makes the best of the worst of them as the idealistic but starving would-be architect, and the Dead End Kids when they still were kids and hadn't changed their screen names a half dozen times do display the early signs of all the irritating shtick that would turn them into one of the most painful ensembles of the 40s, but Sylvia Sidney's striking worker, Claire Trevor's hooker and Bogart's disillusioned gangster make the most of their opportunities. But Marjorie Main as Bogie's mom? That's a hard sell on the best of days!
Bogart and the Dead End Kids would cross the street to the Warners lot to co-star in Angels With Dirty Faces a couple of years later, but this one beats even that Cagney classic. Sadly no extras, but the DVD transfer is quite superb. Highly recommended.