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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 25 April 2007
Little Caesar, made in 1931, was released only a few months before The Public Enemy with James Cagney, and together they set the standard that all future crime films would be judged. Edward G Robinson takes the acting honours by miles with a mesmerising performance as Rico.

The film is is clearly influenced by the life of Al Capone, and Chicago in general in the 1920's. For 1931, only a year or so into talkies the script is remarkably good. Flaherty, who is the Cop who wants to put the cuffs on Rico has some great dry witty and sarcastic lines. Rico has many classic lines including "You can dish it out but you're getting so you just can't take it anymore!" and his final words "Mother of mercy.. is this the end of Rico?".

Watch carefully and you will spot scenes by the director Mervyn LeRoy that influenced Martin Scorcese amongst others. Well worth getting and if there was a better crime film made in the early 30's I haven't seen it.
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on 12 June 2005
There were many excellent 1930s movies including a number made by Bette Davis, such as Dark Victory, but most of the movies of that era have faded into memory and are part of early film history, and most are neither viewed or sold. The present 1931 film is the exception. It is a short but important film in the gangster era that we still can buy or rent, and view.
There are a few problems with the filming and the directing, and the movie cannot be compred with more modern movies. There are few close ups and only three times in the movie do we see close shots of Edward G Robinson that show him "acting" - including the famous last scene; most shots are full body shots taken from a distance in an office "stage style" as we hear his snarling voice barking out orders - but sometimes looking a bit wooden. Still it is still an entertaining movie and worth a watch.
I have seen Edward G Robinson in a number of old movies including Bogart's 1948 Key Largo - where he dominated the film with his Rocco character (still alive with a slight name change?) - and also in Double Indemnity from 1944 with Fred McMurray, one of the best movies of the early 1940s, where he plays an insurance adjuster. I thought his acting was exceptional in both movies, so I had expected a bit more from the present movie. Edward G Robinson was in about 70 films, and lived to be 80, dying in 1973, but only half a dozen of his films are still remembered. This is one of them.
The present movie seems like an old movie in terms of fit and finish and the audio was poor. I guess it should be since it is a 1931 movie, one of the oldest available on the market. There was lots of small jerks and white spots flashing on the movie film. The actors tend to yell their lines or project similar to stage actors, something that is distracting and had disappeared by the end of the 1930s. Also, the film quality is not great and there are few close ups of Edward G Robinson.
The plot is good but short and the movie is just 79 minutes long, barely over an hour. Edward G Robinson dominates the movie as a ruthless gangster, and one assumes that he was similar to Al Capone, as he rises to power in what seeems like weeks. Douglas Fairbanks Jr. is an acceptable Joe Massara, Rico's pal from the old days. The other supporting actors are fairly weak, and the film could have used a stronger cast. Sargeant Flaherty played by Thomas Jackson is the only supporting actor with a heartbeat.
This 1931 film is considered to be the movie that made Edward G Robinson a star, but I thought his Key Largo performance with Bogart and Bacall in 1948 was a lot better. That movie is a slick Warner's movie directed by John Huston, but still filmed in black and white. By that time both Bogart and Robinson were seasoned actors and the film technology had improved a lot. The actual craft fit and finish of Key Largo made 20 years later is excellent by comparison, and it captures Edward G's rivetting "Rocco" performance with many close up expressions and good lines. If you want to see a strong acting performance by Edward G, see that film. Also, do not miss Double Indemnity, that is also an exceptional movie with Robinson - thought by many critics and film makers themselves as one of the best ever. I bought these two other film noir movies here on line on DVD, but Double Indemnity was only available used.
Still, for its time Little Caesar remains a classic, and one of the few to survive as a commercial product 75 years later, where you can buy the DVD "new". I just rented and did not buy since I already had bought his other two surviving films on DVD that are better.
4 stars.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 20 October 2011
Rico Bandello quickly rises thru the gangster ranks, earning himself the nick-name of Little Caesar. As he sets his sights on the top boss job held by Pete Montana, Rico knows the heat is closing in, fast.

Tho not the first gangster picture to hit the big screen, Little Caesar is undeniably one of the genres landmark pictures. Adapted from W.R. Burnett's {High Sierra} Al Capone inspired novel, Little Caesar would go on to influence many of the genre highlights that followed this piece. While in the process typecasting its star and icon, Edward G. Robinson. What is perhaps the first striking thing about viewing the film now is actually just how un-violent it is in context to what would follow it, but it never needs to be because this is not just about a violent rising. With the advent of sound proving to be a winner with depression jaded cinema goers, director Mervyn LeRoy exploits this by utilising the fact that it's set outside of prison walls. The gangster genre by and large up to this point in 1931 consisted of mob characters behind bars, the sight of Rico about town amongst the noisy hustle and bustle surely would have opened the eyes and ears of the paying public.

I wasn't around back then so have no on the spot frame of reference, but the professional critics point to many allegories that reside within Little Caesar's structure. Talk of paranoia's and conformity's during economic collapse, which are for sure points of reference for those so inclined to analyse and dissect Caesar as a whole. But to me it's a gangster picture first and foremost, outlaying the rise and fall of a very dubious man with big ideals above his relatively small social standing. Rico has ruthless violence constantly itching to burst out, and definite hints of sexual ambiguity make him a worrying, yet most intriguing character. That it works so well obviously is down to Edward G. Robinson's portrayal, big bulging eyes and snappy slang phrases {this themselves must have really hit a chord with the viewers}, Robinson gives the performance that so many have imitated over the years, probably defining the archetype in the process.

It does look a little dated now, but that is surely only natural? But it's a powerful film that rises above merely being a hoodlum piece. Producer Darryl Zanuck wanted something different for this burgeoning genre, and with the might of Warners revelling in the power of the talkie movie, they all crafted one hell of a picture that enthrals as much as it has influenced, things most definitely changed with Little Caesar. 8/10
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This really is a must for all fans of the Ganster film. Released in 1931, it launched the career of Edward G. Robinson and set the gold standard for any film in the genre that followed.

Telling the story of Rico and his rise from lowly enforcer to crime lord, building a reputation for psychotic violence along the way, it is both a fascinating character study and a tense and exciting thriller. Edward G. Robinson is well cast as Rico, even though the character is about as far from his own personality as it was possible to get. Despite his diminutive stature he is menacing, managing to chill you to the marrow with just a scowl. He shows both the intelligent, cold calculating side and the unfettered violent side of the character with equal facility, and makes Rico a believable construct.

As well as Robinson, there is a fine turn from Douglas Fairbanks Jr as his old friend who gets drawn into Rico's schemes and crimes, despite a desperate wish to go straight. It is a good performance that really shows the anguish of the character.

This is a tightly directed thriller, fast paced and exciting (by the standards of the time). What really makes it is some well written, well delivered pacey and hardnosed dialogue. It is hard to believe that this was made in the earliest years of the talkies, when film makers were still working out how best to make use of the new medium.

The DVD transfer is pretty good, especially for a film of this age. The sound is similarly in good condition. An all round excellent release for this excellent film. Recommended to all fans of hard boiled gangster films.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 25 January 2011
First National Pictures presents "LITTLE CAESAR" (25 January 1931) (78 min/B&W) (Fully Restored/Dolby Digitally Remastered) -- Rico joins Sam Ventori's gang --- He replaces Sam as leader, pushes rival gang leader Arnie Lorch out of town, then goes after the job of next-higher-up Pete Montana --- He accepts when "Big Boy" offers him that prize but his sights are set higher still and also on his best friend Joe's girl Olga.

Edward G. Robinson makes it so entertaining! --- Robinson, like James Cagney, can dominate a film --- He certainly does that in this film -- Edward G. is in top form.

Under the production staff of:
Mervyn LeRoy [Director]
W.R. Burnett [Novel]
Robert N. Lee [Continuity]
Francis Edward Faragoh [Screen version & dialogue]
Hal B. Wallis [Producer]
Tony Gaudio [Cinematographer]
Ray Curtiss [Film Editor]

1. Mervyn LeRoy [Director]
Date of Birth: 15 October 1900 - San Francisco, California
Date of Death: 13 September 1987 - Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, California

2. Edward G. Robinson [aka: Emmanuel Goldenberg]
Date of Birth: 12 December 1893 - Bucharest, Romania
Date of Death: 26 January 1973 - Hollywood, California

the cast includes:
Edward G. Robinson ... Little Caesar - Alias 'Rico'
Douglas Fairbanks Jr. ... Joe Massara
Glenda Farrell ... Olga Stassoff
William Collier Jr. ... Tony Passa
Sidney Blackmer ... Big Boy
Ralph Ince ... Pete Montana
Thomas E. Jackson ... Sergeant Flaherty
Stanley Fields ... Sam Vettori
Maurice Black ... Little Arnie Lorch
George E. Stone ... Otero
Armand Kaliz ... De Voss
Nicholas Bela ... Ritz Colonna (as Nick Bela)

Mr. Jim's Ratings:
Quality of Picture & Sound: 4 Stars
Performance: 4 Stars
Story & Screenplay: 4 Stars
Overall: 4 Stars [Original Music, Cinematography & Film Editing]

Total Time: 78 min on DVD ~ First National Pictures ~ (01/25/2005)
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on 23 February 2006
With a hero to a zero theme, Little Ceasar portrays an Al Capone type (and looking) gangster who through various muders, and corrupted deals ends up finding himseif as beaing of the most biggest and powerful mob bosses of the 1920's and the 1930's.
But at a heavy cost. Ending up killing all of his friends and relatives in order to gain his position and keep it, Little Ceasar ends up finding himself with no gang, no money, no friends of family and with a determined copper after him.....
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on 19 November 2009
The story-line is simple. A small-time ganster, street-smart,ambitious and who by sheer guts becomes the top boss. A very simple story with universal appeal narrated in a very simple way.

What makes this film very watchable is the role of little Caesar played by Edward G. Robinson. You will forget many mafia characters you have seen on the screen in the seventies and eighties. This one is the original. A quintessential gangster indeed!!

Just enjoy his mannerisms and tough talks.
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on 30 January 2010
Watch the type of film modern directors of this genre should have watched. Ok its in black and white about 80 years old (would you believe it), the sound isn't dolby and its not exactly blue ray quality but its the real thing. Made so close to prohibition and the depression et al you can get that feeling the film makers probably new the real miscreants. E.G. Robinson was brilliant in his day. Acting and sets reflect the period very well.
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on 16 July 2013
This is the best of the classic WB gangster movies.
I was put off by black and white films claiming "there are no good films made before 1980" I realise now what a foolish statement that was, and this is proof.
Little Caesar is as gritty and thrilling as any of the modernt gangster classics. Speaking as a lad in his mid twenties, I haven't had much exposure to classics like this, but I urge people of a similar age who have even a slight interest in the genre to buy this film, you will not be disappointed, it's brilliant.
Plus this is more violent than later WB gangster films, as there was some standards put in place during the mid 30s that meant gangster films had to be toned down a bit. It really is the best of the bunch.
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on 10 April 2010
One of Warners classic gangster movies starring Edward G Robinson in his famous roll of "Rico" R-I-C-O thats Rico, plenty of action and shootings, unfortunately this movie isn't the usual top quality transfer that we have come to love and expect from Warners this is the only reason I've only given 3 stars
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