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!
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.
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.
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. Tremendous!!
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!
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]
BIOS: 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)
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.
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...
This I think was Cangneys breakthrough role, and what a performance. The grape fruit scene is the one every one talks about in this film, it's not that electrifying, but I suppose it was for its time shocking to see domestic abuse, even if it was done by fruit. But to be fair this is one of the best gangster films from the classic WB era, if your a fan of the genre and want educate your self of its origins this is one to have in your collection.