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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cagneys first and maybe greatest gangster role!!, 17 Nov 2000
This movie is nearly 70 years old!!Just think about that for a second.When the word timeless was invented it was ,made to be used with works of art like this.Basically a morality tale of a life of crime "The Public Enemy" shows us Tom Powers a young boy from Chicago and the events leading up to his life of crime.Cagney's Tom Powers is a vicious low life thug,but again he loves his mama!Tom Power really has no redemming features, he seeks revenge when Putty Nose a slimely lowlife when Putty crosses him.Doesn't take any crap from the owners of the speakeasys when they don't pay up on time or accept his orders.He squashes a grapefruit into his girlfriends face when she suggest that he doesn't like her anymore(a Cagney improvisation again, the scene was already shot but Cagney asked Mae Clarke to come back and try it with the grapefruit being squashed in her face,both were surprised to find the second shot ending up in the finished film.Cagney would forever be offered grapefruit when he went into restraunts after the film.)Even though Tom is a low-life Cagney plays him so well that you can't but end up loving him in the end.This film rocketed Cagney into the limelight, the depression era crowd loved him as a man who would stand up for himself and not be broken by the system.Only one other gangster movie of this era can match "The Public Enemy" and thats "Scarface"(not the Al Pacino version),anothe interesting fact is that the machine gun attack on Cagney and his best friend Matt Doyle actually used real machine gun bullets!! The chunks of the building that are seen flying out when the bullets hit it was real!!None of your nambypamby special Matix effects here!
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cagney is superb, 9 Oct 2009
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This review is from: The Public Enemy [DVD][1931] (DVD)
Considering its age, this film has scrubbed up very nicely for this DVD re-issue, with sharp images and good sound.
The great James Cagney plays Tom Powers, a streetwise hood with no regard for man, woman or beast, in what was to be the first of a series of leading roles in which he portrayed a variety of tough guys and gangsters. His performance is brilliant in conveying the sort of charisma that enables this type of character to attract a following amongst other lowlifes and criminals without suggesting, however, that Tom Powers is anything other than a sordid, selfish little hoodlum.
Although one or two of the older supporting actors in the cast still adopt a rather stilted delivery of their lines, which must have been a remnant of earlier days in the theatre, most of the cast play their parts in a colloquial manner and this movie is as watchable today, and its message as relevant, as it must have been almost eighty years ago.
The disc extras include an interesting running commentary on the film by Robert Sklar,contemporary newsreels,and a featurette entitled Enemies of the Public.
Warmly recommended!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Even after 74 years, electrifying, 15 Mar 2005
alanf1135 "Al." (Greenock, Scotland) - See all my reviews
Public Enemy is a white-hot film that is as instense as any recent Hollywood crime thriller. This is in no doubt due to James Cagney charismatic riviting performance, he dominates every scene and always throws you out with an unexpected action or gesture as was shown with the famous grapefruit scene.
In terms of performances that grab you and won't let you go like this one, of today's actors, only Ray Loitta and Robert De Niro are capable doing this.
I also feel that what made this film great was what was not shown.
You never saw James Cagney inside the building having a shootout with half a dozen of the rival gang or him being tortured at the end, it was what was implied that made it all that more powerful.
This may have been made in 1931 but it as just as fresh and exciting as anything made today.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Violent Gangster Film, 2 Sep 2012
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This review is from: The Public Enemy [DVD][1931] (DVD)
Released the same year as the dull Little Caesar, The Public Enemy is the total opposite it has fast-paced plot, gripping storyline and brilliant direction from A star director William A. Wellman (Beau Geste, Battleground). The films follows Tom Powers (James Cagney in his first and best gangster role) as he starts as small kid growing up to big time gangster and his buddy as they rob things from shops and sell them on the criminal market to thriving when Prohibition comes in. Cagney captures the role of a violent and top of the world gangster who gets what he wants, he has that violent compelling charisma apparent in some many of his films: Kiss Tommorow Goodbye, White Heat and Angels with Dirty Faces. Also Donald Cook plays Mike, Tom's straight-laced brother who does the exact opposite of Tom and acts as the voice of law in the film if slightly in your face goody he is still necessary to show the path of goodness even though I was rooting for Cagney's character. Wellman boasts some powerful affective scenes such as one scene where Tom drenched by rain and the ending which still has the power to shock. This is brilliant gangster film and much better than Little Caesar (1931) which features Edward G Robinson with as much charisma as quacking duck; he could never hold a candle to Cagney's raw energy.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Public Enemy, 1931; WB 2005 release - Powerful stuff from James Cagney in his breakthrough film, 8 Mar 2011
Victor (Hull, England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Public Enemy [DVD][1931] (DVD)
A must see for all lovers of classic gangster films. Released at about the same time as Little Caesar, this is a tough, uncompromising look at the life of a bootlegger, through a formative childhood and into an adulthood full of danger and big rewards for the survivors. It also features a tough, uncompromising, charismatic and career defining performance from a young James Cagney in his breakthrough film.

It tells the story of Tom Powers, born into a poor but respectable family. Episodes from his childhood show him to be a tearaway, and inevitably he turns to a life of crime. Being an enforcer for a local bootlegger gives his psychotic side full reign, and soon he is a rich man. Then things start to go wrong and a gang war leaves a lot of his friends dead. Powers sets out on a mission of retribution that can only have one end.

Framed as a moral tale, suggesting that people like Powers are the enemy of law abiding decent folks but that their end is inevitable, it is an interesting film on many levels. First and foremost though it is an entertainment, we cannot help but be thrilled as Powers lurches from one escapade to the next, driven to disaster by his own self destructive egotistical streak. Cagney gives the performance his all, and imbues the character with a magnetic charm and a real feeling of glowering menace. We never know just when he will erupt into violence. It made his career, and rightly so.

Released in 1931 it is hard to believe that this was right at the start of the talkies. The dialogue is accomplished from both writers and actors. There is very little of the overdone facial acting that crops up in a lot of early talkies as a hangover from the days of silent cinema. It is a document of its times, and portrays them accurately, but in terms of the film style and the acting it does not seem to have dated and feels fresh and vibrant even 80 years on.

This release is very good, with a really clean and crisp picture transfer and soundtrack in excellent condition. It is the best quality release I have seen for this film. 5 stars all round.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of Cagney's great movies, 24 Dec 2007
C. O. DeRiemer (San Antonio, Texas, USA) - See all my reviews
The Public Enemy is dated, a little corny, with dialogue that now seems full of of those movies that some who disdain "old" movies might point to as how over-rated "old" movies can be. But I challenge anyone who has the least appreciation for solid direction and great acting to watch this movie and not quickly get beyond all that and become immersed in the film. William Wellman, one of the great American directors, has constructed a movie that just keeps moving, with startling set pieces, wonderful photography and a visual narrative that matches the story. James Cagney, in the role that made him a major star, completely dominates the screen. He gives a performance of magnetic ruthlessness, casual yet precise physicality, and just plain contemptuous anger. You can't keep your eyes off him.

The story is relatively simple: the rise and fall of a criminal during Prohibition, with a little social background thrown in. The movie says at the start, "It is the ambition of the authors of 'The Public Enemy' to honestly depict an environment that exists today in a certain strata of American life, rather than glorify the hoodlum or the criminal." Of course, glorify the criminal they do. Cagney and his buddy may die at the end, but in between they live a life of increasing affluence, tailor-made clothes, easy women and plenty of cash.

Tom Powers (Cagney) and his friend Matt Doyle (Edward Woods) grow up in the slums, start out with petty thievery and are soon recruited to bigger things. Tom's older brother, Mike (Donald Cook), is the straight arrow who loves his brother and hates what his brother is becoming. Their mother just loves her baby and doesn't have the slightest idea of where he's getting his money. Tom moves up the Prohibition crime ladder from petty thievery to strong arm inforcement to murder. Eventually, a gang war starts up, Tom's gang boss dies in a riding accident, and Tom decides to avenge his boss and wreak havoc on the other gang. In a great scene Wellman doesn't show but which we can hear, Cagney arms himself, barges in on the other gang and does just that. But he's badly wounded. The last scene, in my view, is one of the classic closers in movie history. Tom has been kidnapped from his hospital by his enemies. His mother and brother are told he'll be delivered to their home. The doorbell rings while Tom's mother is preparing a bed for Tom. Tom's brother goes to the door and then steps back in horror. Balanced in the doorway is Tom, wrapped in bandages and blankets like a mummy, immobile, only his bruised face showing. He teeters for a second or two, and then falls face down on the floor, dead. The sequence is shot from a low camera angle that accents the surprise and dread of the scene.

During the course of Tom's career he takes up with Mae Clark, tires of her, and does the grapefruit-in-the-face routine. As often as that scene has been shown, it still packs a punch because Kitty (Clark) doesn't see it coming and because Tom means it. Later he meets a platinum-haired, plump and knowing Gwen (Jean Harlow). The scene where he picks her up is uneasily funny because of Tom's charm and barely concealed lust. In another scene Tom and Matt meet up with the fellow who began giving them criminal jobs to do and then ran out on them. They take him to his townhouse where Tom plays a hardened game of cat-and-mouse, and then calmly murders him. The movie is full of these kind of dramatic piece-parts that build Tom's character and which keep driving the movie forward.

It's interesting to compare the two bookend gangster movies of Cagney's career. He was 32 and looked younger when he made The Public Enemy. He was 50 and looking middle-aged and thick when he made White Heat in 1949. But he completely dominated White Heat just as he did The Public Enemy. It's impossible to think of any other actor who could have handled so dynamically either role.

And if you want to see the work of a professional Hollywood director at the top of his game, you won't go wrong by checking out the films of William Wellman. Among many excellent movies he gave us were Beau Geste, Roxie Hart, Nothing Sacred, Yellow Sky, The Ox Bow Incident, Battleground.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must own, 7 July 2007
A must own for film freaks and lovers of great films.
James Cagney in one of his top 3 films. A film that stands even today. Cagney is one of Hollywood's greatest actors ever and this stunning performance is worth the film alone. Superb acting in a superb film. Just see it an enjoy...
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "The Public Enemy (1931) ... James Cagney ... William A. Wellman (Director) (2005)", 20 Jan 2011
J. Lovins "Mr. Jim" (Missouri-USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Public Enemy [DVD][1931] (DVD)
Warner Bros. Pictures presents "THE PUBLIC ENEMY" (23 April 1931) (84 min/B&W) (Fully Restored/Dolby Digitally Remastered) -- Friends Tom and Matt go from small time to big time crime during prohibition --- Tom tires of his mistress Kitty (he pushes a grapefruit into her face) and falls for Gwen who resists his advances except when it looks as though he might dump her --- When Matt is killed, Tom goes after the murderers.

"The Public Enemy" was Cagney's breakout film, and really he makes a powerful and accurate job --- Strong acting is provided by the whole cast --- The director William A. Wellmann handles the movie with sound talent.

Mae Clarke was immortalized as the recipient of James Cagney's classic grapefruit-in-the-face.

Academy Award nominations for Best Writing & Best Original Story

Under the production staff of:
William A. Wellman [Director]
Kubec Glasmon [Screenplay]
John Bright [Screenplay]
Harvey F. Thew [Screen adaptation]
Darryl F. Zanuck [Producer]
Devereaux Jennings [Cinematographer]
Edward M. McDermott [Film Editor]

1. William A. Wellman [Director]
Date of Birth: 29 February 1896 - Brookline, Massachusetts
Date of Death: 9 December 1975 - Los Angeles, California

2. James Cagney [aka: James Francis Cagney]
Date of Birth: 17 July 1899 - New York City, New York
Date of Death: 30 March 1986 - Stanfordville, New York

the cast includes:
James Cagney - Tom Powers
Jean Harlow - Gwen Allen
Edward Woods - Matt Doyle
Joan Blondell - Mamie
Donald Cook - Mike Powers
Leslie Fenton - Nails Nathan
Beryl Mercer - Ma Powers
Robert Emmett O'Connor - Paddy Ryan
Murray Kinnell - Putty Nose
Clark Burroughs - Dutch
Mae Clarke ... Kitty

Mr. Jim's Ratings:
Quality of Picture & Sound: 5 Stars
Performance: 5 Stars
Story & Screenplay: 5 Stars
Overall: 5 Stars [Original Music, Cinematography & Film Editing]

Total Time: 84 min on DVD ~ Warner Bros. Pictures ~ (01/25/2005)
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4.0 out of 5 stars Gangland Grapefruit, 1 Jun 2014
Arch Stanton (Cornwall, England.) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Public Enemy [DVD][1931] (DVD)
Tom Powers is born bad and grows up worse, in this morality tale of racketeers and mobsters during the 1920s. Tom, along with his buddy Matt, work their way up from petty thievery as children, right up to full on murderous gangsterdom by the time they are adults. Unfortunately though, there is something different about Tom and soon his egomania and sadistic nature begin to take a toll on their life expectancies, especially when the stakes get higher and higher and a gang war erupts. Unwavered by the present danger, Tom continues in spite of the escalating mob violence, and also clashes with his honest brother, but will Tom have the legs to go the distance...

An early but very good Cagney crime thriller, in which Warner's make sure that they in no way are found guilty of condoning the bad characters or their violent actions.
Cagney does a great job as the lead villain, and even though this is one of his earliest roles, still gives us a very convincing portrayal of what makes a hoodlum.
Most of the action takes place off screen (you don't get to see people gunned down in cold blood as such) but you certainly get the message and because of that, it doesn't make the action any less shocking. In fact there are several disturbing scenes in this that will probably linger for some time, like Tom's cold blooded shooting of Putty Nose, or maybe the more infamous 'grapefruit in the face scene'. The ending with Tom returning home, both funny and ghastly in equal measure.

Watched as part of the TCM 'Prohibition Gangsters' set. Which has a decent print.

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5.0 out of 5 stars PUBLIC ENEMY 1931 THE GREAT MR CAGNEY!! BLU RAY!!, 23 Mar 2014
Diane Tate "70S MAN" (united kingdom) - See all my reviews
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As i have had a previous copy of the dvd basic which for its time ,was great! the blu ray certainly does this movie justice! its sharp and the detail excellent!! for the age ! also the sound is clear! i recommend to upgrading to blu ray ! you wont be dissapointed!
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