Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Flipping (Over) The Bird!

For anyone who wondered... Yes, this post vanished, and is now reinstated.

It seems that Google Blogger will not allow you to "Draft" a post, keep it as a "draft" while you continue to edit it, and allow another subsequent post to be published ahead it it.

If I haven't done the best job of explaining this, the post you are now reading was to precede the "Road Runner DVD Review" (Below) -- but, since it was created AFTER I began the process of editing the "DVD Review" post, I had to pull it to allow the "DVD Review" post to occupy the top spot. 

Note that this post is dated Tuesday, November 22 (date of it's ORIGINAL posting) but today is Friday, December 02.

Ahhh... Who really gives a Beep, anyway! 

Now, back to our "original post"...

Come back over Thanksgiving Weekend [ which is now long past -- Thanks, Google!], as we're serving a delectable bird for the holiday. 

PS: Beep! Beep!

DVD Review: Looney Tunes Superstars: Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote Supergenius Hijinks

Looney Tunes Superstars: Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote Supergenius Hijinks

(Released October 04, 2011 by Warner Home Video)

Another Looong DVD Review by Joe Torcivia

Did YOU know that “Supergenius” was one word?

To say that the “Looney Tunes Superstars” collections released thus far have been a mixed bag would be an understatement – but, “Looney Tunes Superstars: Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote Supergenius Hijinks” takes us to new levels of… um, “bag-mixing”.

To its definite credit, it offers NO double-dipping with previous “Looney Tunes Golden Collections”, where many of the classic Chuck Jones and Michael Maltese Road Runner theatrical cartoons have already been offered. No double-dipping (even if said dipping involves quality product) will always be a plus with me.

But, what it DOES offer are Road Runner shorts of three completely different types – and from three completely different sources and / or eras.

The package offers no distinction or breakdown of these disparate offerings, but I would group them thusly:

• 2010 CGI shorts, averaging just over 3 minutes apiece. (Total of 3.)

• Modern-Era theatrical shorts: 1990s-2000s. (Total of 3.)

• Mid-1960s Era, Post-Chuck Jones theatrical shorts. (Total of 9.)

The theatrical shorts reflect lengths consistent with their era.

It’s true that previous “Looney Tunes Superstars” collections offered an abundance of late-period Warner or DePatie Freleng shorts, but each entry in the series had at least something that was representative of the classic period that lasted thru the mid 1950s. Not here, though.

It almost seems as if this set was considered as a dumping ground for “All Things Road Runner” that would not be considered “Classic” by animation enthusiasts.

It doesn’t bother me, though, because ALL of these are new to DVD animation collections! And I don’t hold the harsh opinion of the later Road Runner shorts that certain others do. Sure, they weren’t Chuck Jones and Michael Maltese, but they were “good” in their own way.

What DOES bother me is the description (…if you could call it that) on the front of the package that says: Cartoon 15 Classics”!

What is “classic” is forever open to interpretation, but that’s not even grammatically or structurally correct! And, no… CGI animation hasn’t been around long enough to boast its own “classics”. Even if you disagree, and cite “Toy Story” and the like, it still wouldn’t include these. And despite my (perhaps misplaced?) fondness for the ‘60s Warner theatricals, even I cannot call them “classics”… At least not and maintain any credibility.

As is our custom in these reviews, we’ll break it into CONS and PROS. Many of them will be lifted almost whole cloth from past reviews. …At least they make it easy on me!


The Number of Shorts vs. the Price: Fifteen cartoons may seem like a lot, until you consider that (at the rate of three shorts per a theoretical half-hour show), you are only getting the equivalent of FIVE SHOWS! That’s not very much for an MSRP of 19.98.

Now, I’ve said this exact same thing about every previous “Looney Tunes Superstars” collection that I’ve reviewed – but it’s all the more outrageous here, because the 3 CGI shorts are about FOUR MINUTES shorter each than a standard theatrical! You could have fit ONE OR TWO additional theatricals in the space left over by the shorter length of the CGIs!

The Extra Features: There are NO extra features! This is mitigated by the extraordinary amount of such features on the Looney Tunes Golden Collections and the new Looney Tunes Platinum Collection for 2011. But, still for the price, something could have been attempted. At the very least, a few short commentary tracks, as were done in the past.

Too Many Warnings: Like Disney, Warner has lawyered itself to excess. A more recent result of this is that, when the program content ends, there are ELEVEN (I’ll repeat it for effect: ELEVEN!) warnings against copyright violations and the like – and in more languages than anyone purchasing this DVD would be likely to comprehend!!! I can certainly understand the use of ENGLISH, SPANISH, and even FRENCH, but this expansive journey into multi-lingual legalese includes various Asian and Arabic languages! WHY? This excessive exhibition kicks in the moment the final cartoon ends and runs for over two minutes (…or nearly ONE THIRD the running time of some of the later cartoons!). Thankfully, you are able to skip through these, if you wish. …And you WILL wish!

Robo-Promos: “Robo-Promos” is my term for advertisements that play automatically before you even reach the initial menu. They are unavoidably inflicted upon the viewer before “getting on with the show”. Warner sets have most often been the worst offenders in this regard. Here, at least, they reflect other products of possible interest to someone who would purchase this particular set. (…Okay, maybe not so much that second one!) They are:

An ad for the new “Looney Tunes Show” DVD.

• A DVD ad for an animated series based on MAD Magazine.

• Promo for the new “Looney Tunes Platinum Collection” in Blu-ray.

The Robo-Promos run for a combined 3:05 (As long a one of the CGI shorts!). You can always zip through them – but it is still annoying to have to do so.


No Double-Dipping: A “mixed bag of items” it may be, but NONE of these shorts have previously appeared on the series of Looney Tunes Golden Collections or other animation sets!

Menu and Navigation: A more “generic” menu series, with all of the popular characters – and not “Road Runner specific” – is employed for this collection, indicating that this will be the standard for all future collections in this series.

Menu navigation is very easy, though there are THREE menus of shorts (for a total of five on each menu). I’m not sure why, because the shorts are not delineated by the three categories mentioned above. It’s simply “five titles per menu screen”, when they can all fit on one.

Image Quality: In previous releases, there was a notable controversy over the presentation of post-1953 cartoon shorts having been remastered in some sort of WIDESCREEN effect. (See the BUGS BUNNY REVIEW for more details!)

Initially, I’ll admit that it looks nice when viewed on a widescreen HD TV, but closer inspection reveals that portions of the screen image look to be cut off – or, are far too close to the frame than I recall from nearly a lifetime of viewing these cartoons.

Check the Road Runner’s beak at the very beginning of “Sugar and Spies” in the widescreen version. The front tip of his beak is cut off, at the far right of the screen. Though, overall, the Road Runner shorts fare better in this respect than those in previous releases.

Still, you have a choice. In an unusual bow to the hardcore fans, WHV offers an option to view the cartoons in either “Full Frame” (as we’ve long been accustomed to) or “Widescreen”!

Though, typical of today’s Warner Animation DVDs, even this step forward is not without its inconvenience. The CHOICE between “Full Screen” and “Widescreen” is ONLY offered BEFORE the display of the main menu. Meaning that you cannot “toggle” back and forth between the two options once the DVD is engaged.

Let’s say I wished to see a cartoon in “Full Screen”, and then immediately after in “Widescreen” for comparison purposes. NOPE! Not so simple! You must completely disengage the DVD, and start it all over again before you can select the alternate viewing option.

Given this, I’ve tended to stay with “Widescreen”, as moving between the two options is far too time consuming for the “reward” involved.

And, the ultimate “PRO” for “Looney Tunes Superstars: Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote Supergenius Hijinks”…

The Shorts (Separated by Category):

2010 CGI:

“Coyote Falls” (03:00): Wile E. and a BUNGEE CORD. No good can come of this!

“Fur of Flying” (03:06): A kids’ bike, a “Mega-Motor”, a football helmet, and a ceiling fan are cannibalized by Wile E. to make a handle-barred helicopter helmet. Nothing good comes of this either – especially when continental defense missiles get involved!

“Rabid Rider” (03:07): The “Acme Hyper-Sonic Transport”, a two-wheeled scooter with handlebars is Wile E.’s latest device to ensure that things end badly. Some nice western scoring help punctuate the wild goings-on.

Analysis: I am NOT the biggest fan of CGI animation. In a private moment of candor, I would very likely admit to actively disliking it. Aw, hell… I don’t like it at all!

However… I LIKED THESE! (…Yeah, surprised me too!)

The Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote are probably the perfect characters to make the transition from traditional cell animation to this new medium, likely because of the action involved. Admittedly, seeing more than three in a row would surely wear thin, but Warner Bros. packaged just the right number to keep me entertained, without becoming bored and/or annoyed.

Director Michael O’ Callaghan does a fine job allowing you to see the feathers and fur of our Road Runner and Coyote, delivers perfect facial expressions, and the painfully funny violence achieves a new level in this form. He also adds a marvelously plaintive WHIMPER to Wile E.’s otherwise nonexistent vocabulary – making the “hurts” all the more humorous.

Modern-Era Theatricals:

“Whizzard of Ow” (Produced by Larry Doyle, Directed by Bret Haaland 2003): Runs (07:10) Over the desert, two wizards fight a climactic battle destroying each other with their magic – resulting in the “Acme Book of Magic” and a black cat falling into the hands of Wile E. Coyote – the latter immediately tearing Wile E. to shreds. Lots of violently funny magic-gags ensue, and fans of the “Beep Beep the Road Runner” comic book might even note the return of Matilda!

This may actually be the single most, out and out riotous short in the collection! Ironically, even more in the mold of classic Chuck Jones than…

“Chariots of Fur” (Chuck Jones, 1994): Runs (07:10) The triumphant return of Chuck Jones to a Road Runner theatrical – alas without Michael Maltese, who had passed-on by this point. Jones’ gags, poses, and timing still work as well as ever, highlighted by some “Acme Lightning Bolts (Fat Free) Rubber Gloves Included”, though the animation (particularly of Wile E.) is done in what I can best describe as “That Puffy Style” that Jones employed in his later years. Partisans of Jones’ more uniquely classic style of the ‘40s thru ‘60s may consider this a negative. I do. On the plus side, Maurice Noble is along as “Art Director”.

“Little Go Beep” (Produced and Directed by Spike Brandt, 2000): Runs (07:56) Written by the late and very much lamented Earl Kress, we see the heretofore untold backstory of (very) Young Wile E. Coyote – most notably, why he never speaks …outside of comic books and Bugs Bunny cartoons, that is! Stan Freeberg is on hand to voice Wile E.’s dad “Cage E. Coyote”. Unexpectedly funny moment: When Li’l Wile E. is “frozen in mid running pose” in order for his bogus pseudo-Latin zoological name to display, he LOOSES HIS FOOTING when “unfreezing” due to his inexperience in such matters! Earl Kress… WE MISS YOU!

Analysis: Each of these entries is very entertaining, with Doyle’s effort the clear prize winner! Sure makes you wonder why the larger studios refuse to continue in the tradition of lush, cell-animated theatrical shorts – because these examples prove that the magic CAN be recaptured! Warner? Disney? Universal? Paramount? C’mon folks! It’s not like you can’t export ‘em to TV and DVD once they run their course.

Mid-1960s Theatricals:

“Sugar and Spies” (Robert McKimson, 1966): Runs (06:24) The run of Mid-1960’s theatricals BEGINS with the LAST ONE ever made. Someone should explain that.

In the sixties, spies were everywhere… even here! This is my favorite of the Road Runner cartoons of this era, though it clearly exhibits the feel of a contemporary DePatie Freleng Enterprises cartoon, far more than a Warner production, from its title card to a uniquely sixties music score by Walter Greene – evocative of the DFE “Inspector” shorts.

Decades before that “Acme Book of Magic” dropped into Wile E.’s hands, he is slammed in the face with a Spy Kit, discarded by a short but sinister looking cloaked figure on the run from the authorities. (Said “sinister figure” also looking as if he were lifted from the “Inspector” series.)

From the Spy Kit, the Coyote employs various explosive devices with the expected results. An extended sequence, in which he builds a “Spy-mobile” out of junkyard parts – from plans found in the kit, dominates much of the cartoon. There’s a “So Subtle You May Not Notice It” visual gag reference to the “Hertz Rent-a-Car” commercials of the 1960s, for those who remember such things. To this cartoon’s credit, the use of the Spy Kit to drive the plot unites what is usually a series of disjointed gags to good effect. Wyle E. also looks good in his black spy garb.

“Clippety Clobbered” (Rudy Larriva, 1966): Runs (06:20) Opens with a nice sixties-stylized credits sequence, punctuated by the word “OUCH!” in different fonts throughout! Wyle E. receives a chemistry set, with which he creates Invisible Paint, a formula that turns him rubbery so that he might achieve acceleration by bouncing of rocks and cliff faces, and high-powered fuel for a pair of hand jets. We end with an equally stylized closing where the Road Runner appears for a final “Beep! Beep!” within the “field of yellow” of Wile E.’s eyes!

Honestly, if you can look past the limitations of mid-sixties animation, the gags in this one are just as good as those of the Jones / Maltese era. This cartoon also employs the stock William Lava score that (for better or worse) we associate with these shorts. (You will KNOW IT, once you hear it!) While the animation and scoring may diminish this entry, some good gags and inspired attempts at stylization at both beginning and end lift it as well. Sadly, these “plusses” would not continue into the next cartoon…

“The Solid Tin Coyote” (Rudy Larriva, 1966): Runs (06:19) Like “Sugar and Spies”, this one is also united by a single plot point – Wile E.’s construction of a Giant Robot Coyote! Unlike “Sugar and Spies”, it is not well-animated enough to successfully carry off the gags, and what might be a good idea falls flat. This is especially so, when whatever logic this cartoon may possess is thrown out the window in favor of the (admittedly smile producing) gag where the Robot grabs the Road Runner – and Wile E. commands it to “Eat, stupid!”… and the Robot scarfs down the Coyote! Okay, I kinda like the sheer audacity (and dumbness) of the “Eat, stupid!” gag. BUT, didn’t Wile E. spend nearly the last two decades trying to eat the Road Runner HIMSELF?! I’ve heard of “living vicariously”… but Sheesh!

“Out and Out Rout” (Rudy Larriva, 1966): Runs (06:19) In another nod to sixties culture, Wile E. builds a “custom drag racer” to help catch his quarry. Not as successful as his misadventures with the “Spy-mobile”, but more effective gag-wise than the Giant Robot Coyote!

“Shot and Bothered” (Rudy Larriva, 1965): Runs (06:35) Begins with an extended chase through a lengthy series of pipes leading to the expected cliff drop, with the same sequence revisited later in the cartoon by Wile E. on a skateboard. (Way to save on animation!) Other unique aspects include an unexpected SERIES of boulders dropping upon Wile E. when only ONE was expected, Wile E. zipping out of several scenes with a whirling trail of motion lines behind him, and the words “THE END” displaying on-screen before the final explosion takes place.

“Chaser on the Rocks” (Rudy Larriva, 1965): Runs (06:51) It is VERY HOT in the desert today, as indicated by a large pulsating SUN, punctuated by sound effects to represent heat waves. At times, in this one, it seems that Wile E. wants WATER even more than he wants a Road Runner meal. Oddly, the sound effects in this cartoon are directly out of the various Jay Ward (“Bullwinkle”) TV series, rather than the now-familiar Warner Bros. sound effects. Did Treg Brown pack up the Warner sounds and take them with him when he departed?

“Highway Runnery” (Rudy Larriva, 1965): Runs (06:49) The cartoon begins with a red stylized map of dotted-line roads leading away west from a lone tall building at the far right. Then, unrelated gags involving a junky jalopy, a giant rubber band, and a skateboard with an attached sail propelled by an electric fan lead up to my most favorite gag of the “Larriva Era”.

Wile E. bands several sticks of TNT to an alarm clock to make a time bomb, and places said time bomb inside a giant egg. Not considering for a moment that his quarry is a MALE Road Runner, he figures the bird will sit on the egg to hatch it… and BOOM!

Sure enough the Road Runner DOES sit on the egg and, miraculously, it hatches! A curious creature emerges with the head of a Road Runner, complete with blue head plumage, the body of an alarm clock, and legs that send him directly toward the Coyote to the beat of a Jay Ward-borrowed mechanical sound effect. Needless to say, the “bird” explodes, leaving Wile E. to climb out of a huge blast crater – staring in annoyance at the remains of the original alarm clock.

What puts this completely over the top for me is that the alarm clock rings and the frustrated Wile E. smashes it with a rock… only to have the ALARM CLOCK (sans TNT) explode as if it WERE the TNT! The sheer audacity and outrageousness of such a gag is a breath of fresh air, when contrasted with the standard Warner Bros. type of gag, which was becoming tired by 1965.

Yes, I just spent three paragraphs describing a single gag! So what?

“Boulder Wham!” (Rudy Larriva, 1965): Runs (06:49) Another clever opening title sequence displays the word “BOULDER”, then a big rock falls to the ground center screen, and the word “WHAM!” displays in response. And another entry with a single plot theme: The Road Runner is across a chasm from Wile E. Coyote, and the Coyote spends the cartoon inventing increasingly unconventional ways to breach the gap. His attempts include a tightrope, pole vaulting, and a trampoline – eventually leading to hypnotism and even karate! And, for a short titled “Boulder Wham!”, the count of “Boulders Falling on Wile E.” totals only TWO! You think there would have been more…

“Hairied and Hurried” (Rudy Larriva, 1965): Runs (06:49) Unrelated gags include the use of a snow-making machine which covers the desert-scape with snow (Chuck Jones would do a version of this idea in a later made-for-TV special.), bombs dropped from a kite, skydiving into a whirlwind, and karate again.

Writers for this series of shorts include: Tom Dagenais (3), Don Jurwich, Dale Hale, Nick Bennion (2), Al Bertino, and Len Janson. Names not normally associated with Warner Bros. cartoons. All but “Sugar and Spies” (by Walter Greene) were scored by William Lava, most often employing his stock “Road Runner score”.

Analysis: Overall, this series of cartoons does not compare to the best of Chuck Jones and Michael Maltese, nor do they compare to those Jones did solo – or with the vastly underrated John Dunn – after Maltese departed for Hanna-Barbera. But there is a general dislike of them that I feel is disproportionately directed at Rudy Larriva (…and, by extension, to Robert McKimson as well).

They are simply not as bad as they are often made out to be, especially when viewed through the prism of what animation was as the 1960s wore on. I always regarded them as “something different” than what Jones and Maltese had done – but they were still “gag cartoons”, something that would unfortunately soon fall out of fashion, much to the detriment of animation for the two decades that followed. Perhaps we can compromise and call them “serviceable”. …Deal?

They seemed more as if they were made for TV, rather than theatricals. And, having been brought to television as part of the new “Road Runner Show” (“If you’re on a highway, and Road Runner goes Beep-Beep…”), as a young viewer of the time – I thought exactly that.

This may help explain my fondness for them, and I’m glad to see nine of them collected here – because I don’t think they’re ever going to make it to the coming Blu-ray “Platinum Collections”!


While far from perfect, “Looney Tunes Superstars: Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote Supergenius Hijinks” is, as I began the review, a mixed bag.

The cartoons are (to the best of my knowledge) all new to animation collection DVDs. The “Robo-Promos” are back with a vengeance, having been previously omitted from last year’s Foghorn Leghorn release. The widescreen issue is as good a compromise as can be done, I suppose.

The issue of “number of cartoons vs. list price” will vary by viewer, as discounted prices can be found by anyone with a search engine.

The VARIETY of shorts – in both medium and time period – is enough to keep it interesting.

Strictly speaking for myself, I find the complete and total absence of “Extras” to be the greatest negative – especially as WHV has already and routinely shown us just how WELL they can be done. Indeed the aforementioned variety of shorts in this collection almost demands some optional commentary or a featurette to provide additional background on these lesser known contributions to the Warner Animation legacy.

This set is: Recommended for its diversity – but with the usual reservations for this series!

That's All, Folks! 

Monday, November 21, 2011

R.I.P. Les Daniels.

It is with great sadness that we report the passing of author and comic book historian Les Daniels, who left us on November 05, 2011 at the age of 68.

Lots of us with published work on the subject tend to call ourselves “historians” – but the term might never have been truer and more accurate as when it was applied to Les Daniels.

Daniels’ book “Comix: A History of Comic Books in America” (1971) was my FIRST look into this world, and was invaluable in its influence on whatever it is that I’ve done – solo, or in conjunction with others – in fanzines, comics, Blogs, and even a DVD feature.

Yes, folks… You have HIM to blame! Go easy on him, please!
To that point, NOTHING was known to me, beyond that which appeared on the printed pages of the comic books themselves. Daniels’ work was more than a mere eye-opener… it was a full-throttle, rocket-boosted revelation that I simply DEVOURED!

It might not have been the first book on the subject, but it was THE BOOK for me! A true shining light on the dark corners of the unknown that was the comic book industry – publishers, characters, creators, etc. – in 1971. All here, in my hot little hands!

Indeed, when I had the privilege of meeting Les Daniels at a book signing in the ‘90s, I told him – as I now tell YOU – that it was through HIS SEMINAL WORK that I first learned of the character of Batman villain “Two-Face” (who had fallen out of use during the Silver Age)… and first learned the name of CARL BARKS!!!

Daniels’ book presented examples of both a Carl Barks ten-pager (“The Corncrib Money Bin meets a Cyclonetale) and a Batman story featuring Two-Face.

It was thanks to Les Daniels that I was finally able to put a NAME to the heretofore unknown (to me, anyway) best writer and artist of the Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge comic books. And, someone whose game-changing work I strive to be the merest fraction as entertaining as when I am privileged to write American English scripts for Disney comic books. Yes, Carl Barks is a HERO to me… so what!

It’s hard to believe, from today’s perspective, that ANYONE close to these comics could not know the name of Carl Barks – but it was once the norm to be completely ignorant of this and many other things about comic books.

But, thanks to Les Daniels, fandom as a whole could begin to move out of those dark ages. Though I bought Daniels’ current book that signing day, it was my copy of “Comix: A History of Comic Books in America” that I asked him to autograph for me!

Simon Says: “Remember Me?”

Just for our friend and fellow Blogger “ComicBookRehab”, (who expressed some curiosity) here’s an image of “Simon the Pieman” from the 1968 Filmation Batman animated series. The GOOD one they did, not the later ‘70s one with Bat-Mite and explicitly pro-social lessons!

I believe this is the ONLY American animated Batman series unavailable on DVD! C’mon, Warner Bros.!

And, as a bonus, here’s an image of Batman from that same series.

Monday, November 14, 2011

DVD Review: The Last Gangster (1937)

The Last Gangster (1937)

(Released: 2009 by The Warner Archive Collection)
Another looong DVD Review by Joe Torcivia

Summary: Arrogant gangster Edward G. Robinson gets his – and how!

But, wait a minute… Didn’t that already happen in “Little Caesar”? “Mother of mercy, is this the end of Rico?”, and all that?

Well, yes indeed it did! But this is an MGM film, not a “traditional” Warner Bros. gangster picture… and, apparently, they do things differently in the “Lion’s Den”.

After receiving the “MGM Treatment”, you’ll find yourself wishing the poor guy WAS merely shot like Little Caesar!

It’s 1927 and Prohibition gangster Joe Krozac (Robinson) has risen to the top of the New York mobs. Leaving his first lieutenant “Curley” (Lionel Stander) in charge, Krozac sails off to “The Old Country” to take himself a bride.

The bride, “Talya” (Rose Stradner) comprehends little English, knows nothing of Joe’s gangster activities, and is the perfect individual to provide Krozac with the one thing his position as king of the mobsters cannot provide… a son!
Upon returning to New York, Krozac finds that the rival “Kile Mob” has moved in on his Brooklyn territory. He orders the four Kile Brothers killed. One survives. Ironically, the three Kile corpses make the same front page, as the Krozac wedding!

Talya finds herself “with child”, just as the Feds bust Joe for tax evasion. He is shipped off to Alcatraz before even getting one glimpse of the baby.

Curley and Joe’s lawyer stick by him and attempt appeals… until the money runs out, and Krozac is abandoned to ten years on The Rock. Life is hard for the formerly regal mobster – now thrust among a scant few former friends (like “Fats”, played by Edward Brophy) and many enemies out for revenge, such as “Casper” (John Carradine).

Over this time, Talya becomes more and more educated and aware of what swirls about her and son Joseph, Jr. On one of her visits to Joe, she falls victim to a schlock newspaper whose reporter (James Stewart) and photographer places a GUN with the baby – and runs an exploitive photo feature calling the boy “Public Enemy, Jr.”!

Stewart’s reporter, “Paul North”, regretful for what he’s done inadvertently finds himself in a relationship with Talya – ends up marrying her, and adopting the boy (now 10) and renaming him “Paul, Jr.” They live a completely happy, fulfilling, and idyllic life in a Boston suburb, while Joe rots away in prison.

And, avoiding any additional spoilers, it only gets WORSE for Joe Krozac when his ten years are up – taking us to the “present day” of 1937.

One indignity, pain, betrayal, frustration and/or heartache after another is piled atop this now-broken gangster to where (at least in the emotional sense) the end of “Little Caesar” looked like a picnic! EVERYTHING comes home to roost – and more! You really end up feeling sorry for the murderous gangster! This is a tack Warner Bros. never took!

“The Last Gangster” is a release of “The Warner Archive Collection”. Please GO HERE to read more about this relatively new enterprise from Warner Home Entertainment. .

As is our custom in these reviews, we’ll break it into CONS and PROS.


It’s Warner Archives: That means virtually nothing in the way of Extra Features. No commentary, subtitles, logical chapter skips – or even MENUS specifically designed for this movie. No background or “Making Of” featurette. No “Warner Night at the Movies” that I’ve loved so much in other packages! And, there is a needlessly limited choice of devices on which to play it, vs. standard DVD.

Robo-Promos: “Robo-Promos” is my term for advertisements that play automatically before you even reach the initial menu. Virtually ALL of the earlier Warner Archive sets, of those I’ve seen thus far, lead of with the same “Robo-Promo”:

Introducing The Warner Archive Collection!”

It’s time to get the movies you’ve wanted, but could never find, and add them to your film collection!”

Explore the Archive today and discover hundreds of great stories, incredible performances, and rare treasures in Authorized Editions – on DVD!”

Yeah! Take THAT, ya dirty stinkin’ bootleggers! …Mnyah!


It’s Warner Archives: That means we get a film that would probably not garner sufficient support for a general release. Given a choice between “The Last Gangster” as a Warner Archive Collection release, or no release at all, I’ll gladly take a TWAC version.

I fear, as the DVD market contracts (what with downloading and most of the “best material” having already been released), more and more of the remaining as-of-yet-unreleased material will come via avenues such as this one. But, up to now, we’ve sure gotten a LOT of great stuff. More than I could have ever imagined some years ago. So, if the “last of it” arrives in this form… so be it.

The Extra Feature (Singular): Theatrical Trailer for “The Last Gangster”: (03:53)

An unusual trailer where Edward G. Robinson, formally dressed, speaks directly to the viewer… sometimes, with his silver tongue planted firmly in cheek:

Most of my screen career has been concerned with portraying lawbreakers. At least ever since, by a quaint twist of fate, I was cast as Little Caesar.

Well, it was all a lot of fun and very pleasant, up to a certain point. After a while, I became so imbued with the ruthlessness of the characters that I got to believing that I, myself, was really tough.

Then again, my sleep wasn’t any too restful. Why, one night, I got up and found myself strangling my wife! …A lovely girl! And I was shouting at her: “Look here! This BED ain’t BIG ENOUGH for the both of us! One of us has GOTTA GO – and it ain’t gonna be ME! Mnyaah!

Well? What was all the fighting for in the old gangster pictures? TERRITORY!”

Robinson goes on to describe the film as:

“…The smashing climax to all gangster pictures! It reveals the END of mobs and mobsters. It exposes, vividly, just what happens to our so-called “public enemies”, when Uncle Sam gets hold of them and puts them where they really belong – behind prison bars, made of triple steel”!

Wow! What can I add to that, but… Mnyaah!

The Film: See the “first gangster” become “The Last Gangster”! Edward G. Robinson is in top form as Joe Krozac, showing all the snarling fury of “Little Caesar’s” Rico Bandiello, but this is a picture of a different stripe. A great complimentary piece to “Little Caesar”!

The story was written by William Wellman, who directed the classic Cagney gangster film “The Public Enemy”. The newspaper calling Joe’s baby “Public Enemy, Jr.” was probably a sly nod to that iconic film.

Edward Brophy is a former associate of Robinson’s character in this film and in “A Slight Case of Murder” reviewed HERE and “Larceny Inc.” to be reviewed soon.

The Cast: (Pictured: Brophy, Robinson, Carradine)

• Edward G. Robinson as “Joe Krozac”.

• Rose Stradner as “Talya”.

• James Stewart as “Paul North”.

• Lionel Stander as “Curley”. (Stander would also become the original voice of Buzz Buzzard in the Woody Woodpecker cartoons!)

• Douglas Scott as “The Boy” (“Joe, Jr.” / “Paul, Jr.”).

• John Carradine as “Casper”. (…When he dies, he will make a decidedly “unfriendly” ghost!)

• Edward Brophy as “Fats”.

• Louise Beavers as “Gloria”.

• Alan Baxter as “Acey Kile”.


The Last Gangster”, being a product of “The Warner Archive Collection”, and not a standard Warner Home Video release, must be reviewed and rated by a new and different set of standards.

There are no extras (…or no extras to speak of), and print quality is as good as the source material – with only minimal efforts at remastering. In the case of “The Last Gangster”, the print is generally sharp and good overall.

As a film, “The Last Gangster” is a pretty amazing take on how to make the gangster suffer without killing him. Rip his heart out instead! How I’d love for there to have been a commentary track on how this approach differs from the “traditional” Warner’s approach of the deserved violent end.

The Last Gangster” is recommended for fans of Edward G. Robinson and the gangster genre in general, and for those fascinated with the time period and its filmmaking.