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Warner Bros Tough Guys Collection [DVD] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]

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4.9 out of 5 stars 23 customer reviews

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Amazon.com: 4.9 out of 5 stars 23 reviews
33 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A box of good stuff 1 Oct. 2006
By mrliteral - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
A couple years ago, Warner Brothers issued a top-notch set of its classic gangster movies. Included were such all-time greats as Little Caesar, Public Enemy and White Heat. On the heals of that boxed set, a new one was issued: the Tough Guys boxed set. This companion piece to the Gangster set features slightly less well-known movies but is definitely worth watching.

The big difference in the two sets are the roles of its principal players. In the Gangster set, the stars - in particular, James Cagney and Edward G. Robinson - were criminals. As the studio got more pressure to stop producing movies in which the heroes were crooks, they merely switched their actors from one side of the law to the other.

In more-or-less chronological order, the first in this six-movie set is G-Men, featuring Cagney as a struggling lawyer who joins the fledgling FBI. This puts him at odds with his friend, a genial crime boss who opts to retire rather than contend with Cagney. Unfortunately, his successors are not so nice, setting up a lot of gunplay. Of the three Cagney movies in this set, this is the weakest, although it is still decent.

Also relatively weak is Bullets or Ballots which features Robinson as a cop who joins the mob after he is fired (an obvious ruse that not even the villains totally buy). Once again, there is a "good" mob boss who is Robinson's friend. Humphrey Bogart, in a standard role for him in the 1930s, is a much more evil gangster.

Bogart returns in San Quentin as a small-time crook sent to the title prison. The principal character, however, is Pat O'Brien as a reform-minded Captain of the Yard, who tries to turn Bogart around, partly out of good intentions and partly because he's dating Bogie's sister. Unfortunately, as also shown in Angels with Dirty Faces (in the Gangster set), O'Brien isn't that interesting a character: he's too straight and narrow and this allows Bogart and the other cons to steal the show.

If the first three movies are merely good, the next three are top-notch. A Slight Case of Murder is a comic gangster movie with Robinson as a crime lord gone legitimate after Prohibition ends. He sells the same beer that he sold in the speakeasy days, little realizing that the only reason people bought his stuff was because it was the only drink available. It tastes like swill, however, but before Robinson can do anything about it, he faces financial ruin. Complicating things are some dead bodies, some missing bank loot and his future son-in-law, a law officer. It may be an old movie, but the humor still works well.

Probably the best movie in the set is Each Dawn I Die, with Cagney back as a reporter who is framed for a crime after reporting on corrupt politics. Initially convinced that the truth will set him free quickly, he soon realizes that it's not going to be that easy; as time goes by, he begins to fall apart. George Raft also stars as a fellow con who is wise to the ways of prison.

Finally, there is City for Conquest, which is more of a romance than a crime movie (although there is a little bit of crime). Cagney is a boxer who is strung along by his long-time girlfriend Ann Sheridan. Her ambitions to become a famous dancer will override her love of him, with bad consequences. Among other actors, this movie features Elia Kazan in a rare acting role.

Besides the fact that these movies probably average a high four stars, we get a lot of extras, including commentaries on all the movies and "Warner Night at the Movies" for all the films as well: in addition to the movie, you get an old movie trailer, a news reel, a short subject and a cartoon. Add to this a set of mini-documentaries and some miscellaneous shorts (including several blooper reels) and this set easily rates five stars and should be watched by anyone who enjoys crime films.
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another superb Warner's collection 11 Aug. 2006
By Douglas M - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
As a follow up or merely a companion to Warner's Gangster Collection, here is another great set of films. Reviews of each film can be viewed under their individual titles, but by way of summary:

- "G Men" (1935) and "Bullets or Ballots" (1936) are direct responses to the imposition of the Hays Code in 1934. By switching Cagney in the former and Robinson in the latter to the other sides of the law, Warner Brothers cleverly maintained the momentum of the earlier pre code films but shifted the emphasis to the crime fighters. Both films are as exciting as their predecessors and much better made.
- in 1937, "San Quentin" was a programmer starring the second rung Pat O'Brien with Bogart and Ann Sheridan in support. It does not have the budget of the other films and is much more routine. Ann Sheridan sings for the first time on screen though and very well too. This is the weakest film in the set.
- 1938 brought "A Slight Case of Murder", an hilarious Damon Runyan send up of the gangster with Edward G Robinson relishing his comic role and with a brilliant supporting cast including the memorable Ruth Donnelly, Allen Jenkins and Ed Brophy.
- In 1939, "Each Dawn I Die" was the best of the prison films, with convincing detail of the violence and boredom of prison life. George Raft, the weakest of the actors who played gangsters, rises to the level of colleague Cagney in this one and the film has great suspense.
- "City for Conquest", made in 1940, is the most ambitious film of the group based on a pretentious novel which was not a great critical success in the late thirties. The poetic quality of the script is exactly what dates the film more than all the others in the collection but the fight scenes are as harrowing as any on film. Cagney is superb as usual and Ann Sheridan has a starring role. It is great to see her paired with him on an equal basis.

All the prints are in excellent condition and the list of extras is endless - commentaries, newsreels, short films, cartoons and trailers. There is something for everyone here. One of the highlights is the group of blooper reels from the cutting room floor, good fun for those who know their Warner's films.

Like other DVD collections from Warners, this set is excellent value.
63 of 64 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Here comes another one... 14 Jun. 2006
By D. James - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
The descriptions of each film in the product information are comprehensive enough so I won't go on about the story-lines of individual titles, this review is just to highlight the fact that this set is, in format, a follow-up to the Warners' Gangsters Collection. That is, each disc not only has a magnificently restored print of the film, but a set of extras to watch before and after the film hosted by Leonard Maltin, the 'Warner Night at the Movies' section. These extras more often than not run even longer than the film and are thankfully relevant both to the film and to the year that it was released.

Typically you get a cartoon, a newsreel, a preview for another movie of the same year and a short film. At the end there is invariably a ten or fifteen minute retrospective in the form of interviews with leading film critics and sometimes even cast and crew associated with the film (if they're not dead).

The value for money with sets like these (see also Errol Flynn Signature Collection and Film Noir Collection) could not be better, highly recommended.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tough guys abound in a wide variety of films 3 Aug. 2007
By calvinnme - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
This is a great and worthy companion to the Warner Gangsters Collection. However, this collection of films is much more varied than what you found in the Warner Gangsters bunch of films. It's not so much that we have a pre/post code comparison here of how Warner handled tough guys and gangsters in their films - there were only two precode gangster films in the Gangsters collection. Instead, we have WB's top three tough guys of the 30's - James Cagney, Edward G. Robinson, and Humphrey Bogart - taking the lead in a variety of roles and films that often aren't about guys that are gangster tough, or even cop tough for that matter.

Edward G. Robinson stars in "Bullets or Ballots" and "A Slight Case of Murder". In the first film, he is the hard-working cop turned out to pasture by a past associate the minute that associate gets a promotion. Now, suddenly past offers for employment by underworld figures in return for big bucks look pretty good. Will Robinson's character turn against the system and department he has worked for his whole career? In "A Slight Case of Murder" Robinson ably shows his hand at dark comedy as a gangster who is made legitimate by the end of prohibition. Now he can sell his beer legitimately. The only problem is, nobody has the heart to tell him that his beer is awful.

James Cagney, Warners' number one gangster picture star of the 30's, shows up in three films. In "G Men" he is a lawyer who decides to go to work for the F.B.I. His education was bought and paid for by a local mobster, and thus his new associates are suspicious of him although Cagney's legal career has been on the up-and-up. This is an action-packed film with Cagney as a new G-Man who eventually has his loyalties to his old friends somewhat tested. "Each Dawn I Die" has Cagney as a crusading journalist set up on a manslaughter charge and wrongly sent to prison by the corrupt officials he was trying to expose. Month after month passes as he is sure he will be vindicated and released - but nothing happens. Only his convict friend - played by George Raft - who escapes while Cagney is inside, can find the witness that can free him. But will Raft's character bother to keep his promises once he is out? Cagney gives a top-notch performance of a straight guy turned bitter and hopeless as he realizes he may never get out of prison. Cagney's final film in the set "City for Conquest" is a very good film that has little or nothing to do with tough guys and a lot to do with tough breaks and melodrama, all of which Cagney's character gets. He and Ann Sheridan are sweethearts in a tenement district. Ann seeks escape from poverty with her dancing skills, Cagney with his boxing. Unfortunately, Cagney's character runs across a corrupt boxer who rubs a corrosive material into his gloves to temporarily blind Cagney so he can win the match. It works a little too well as Cagney's blindness is more than temporary. This film is a real tear-jerker that is a favorite of mine.

Finally, Humphrey Bogart headlines a very short "San Quentin" at only 70 or so minutes in length. Bogart is a tough-as-nails convict who believes that his special treatment by Pat O'Brien - captain of the yard at San Quentin - may be because he is exchanging Bogart's treatment for his sister's romantic favors, to put it politely. However, Bogart's character has misunderstood the entire situation. The two knew each other and began falling for one another before Bogart's character even went to jail. He decides to escape and give O'Brien the 38-calibre reward he thinks he deserves for dishonoring his sister. Will he come to his senses in time?

Bogart shows up as a supporting player in "Bullets or Ballots" in this set and as a supporting player in several films in the Warner Gangsters Collection. It's hard to believe that Humphrey DeForest Bogart - now recognized as the greatest actor of the 20th century - had to spend a decade slumming at Warner Bros. in supporting roles before his talent was finally recognized for what it was in 1941's "High Sierra". The rest, of course, is history.

In summary, this really is a great set of films supplemented by Warner's Night at the Movies treatment, commentaries on the films by film historians, and various featurettes on the gangster genre. Highly recommended.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars ALL THE GREAT ONES AND QUALITY DVD TRANSFERS TO BOOT! - These DVD's were done right! 24 July 2006
By AUTISTIC WEREWOLF - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
You have all the great one's here and doing some of their best work. I love Edward G Robinson see, which makes this DVD set worth its price for me right there but, there is so much more to this DVD set. You get Cagney flexing his full and substantially talented acting muscle in the films in which he stars.

The funniest of the lot by far is A Slight Case of Murder, who knew you could make a funny movie about a former gangster wanting to go straight as an honest brewer of fine upscale beer. Problem was the beer recipe that sold during prohibition really sucked as in tasted absolutely aweful. I mean this beer was so bad it even put his own crew off of drinking his swill. Edward G played a former gangster so used to having a captive audience during prohibition when the public would drink anything containing real alcohol just to catch their buzz. Problem was how do you tell a former gangster he is selling skunky beer so bad it litterally assulted the taste buds without ending up doing some serious sleeping in a violin case laying down on the job with the fishes.

The end of prohibition was like the emancipation proclaimation when newly minted respectable drunks could finally start drinking beer based on odd ball consumer values like quality, flavor, brand, mouth feel, aroma, head and other quirky things. Needless to say Edward G's character almost goes bankrupt trying to sell horrid beer. the scene where Eddie G finally gets around to drinking his own beer is totally priceless. Edward G. Robinson has an expressive face anyways and to see the frowns and contortions his face undergoes on tasting his beer simply make this movie a keeper for that alone.

All the movies included in this series are strong, well acted and the sound and picture quality are first rate. No hissing popping, flashing, rips or bad film quality issues in any of them that I saw. The films were not too dark, grainy, light or washed out. The sound quality with very few exceptions was first rate and the few times it dropped off I suspect it was original to the film as you know talkies were still new back then. San Quentin was kind of funny because, the plot was hollywood prison not prison reality I can never imagine prison ever being pleasant a place as shown in that movie.

The better prison movie was Each Dawn I Die, it captured better the ugliness of prison life back then. Brainless guards, bulls, screws, it captured more the prison lingo of the time, it captured the mindless work inmates did. Cagney did an excellent job of protraying a prisoner you liked. The ending of Each Dawn I Die was the kind that made me clap, hoot, holler and howl just straight up nice. Bullets or Ballots was pretty predictable so I won't go into it here but, even as one of the weaker of this lot of movie it is still plenty good a must see. G-Men started slow but man did it get intense quick, this was Cagney at his best.

This is a really good set every movie in this set holds its own in DVD transfer quality, star power and storyline if you like old film's staring the true greats of this bygone era as I do. I most highly recommend this film collection to anyone who loves old gangster movies as these are some of the finest out there.
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