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Public Enemy

James Cagney , Jean Harlow , Alfred J. Goulding , William A. Wellman    Unrated   DVD
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
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Product Description

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Director William Wellman (Wings), a World War I veteran who turned his experiences in battle into an insistence on unpretentious violence in his films, made Public Enemy a particularly brutal account of the rise and fall of a monstrous gangster (James Cagney). Cagney delivers one of the most famous performances in film history as the snarling crook who--in one of the film's most famous scenes--smashes a grapefruit into the face of Mae Clarke. The film's a bit dated, but its action scenes still pack an unusual wallop. --Tom Keogh

Product Description

James Cagney, Jean Harlow, Mae Clarke, Joan Blondell. Cagney made his first big mark in Hollywood with his memorable portrayal of a small-time crook who becomes a powerful Prohibition gangster. 1931/b&w/84 min/NR/fullscreen.

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By Nix Pix
Format:DVD
William Wellman's "The Public Enemy" (1931) remains the benchmark acheivement in crime cinema by which all successors tip their hats. It stars James Cagney in a breakout performance that established him as one of Warner Bros. 'tough guys' in their so called "murderer's row" roster of heavies. Here Cagney is Tom Powers, a deviant from the wrong side of the tracks who refuses to mellow with age. Together with his buddy, Matt Doyle (Edward Woods), Tom becomes a one man crime wave - taking his chances, living high and accosting and abusing women along the way. His grapefruit in Kitty's (Mae Clarke) kisser is justly remembered as a violent and violating act against the fairer sex. But Tom doesn't care. Life is cheap and exciting. Jean Harlow cuts an elegantly seedy swath as Gwen Allen. Joan Blondell, as another toss away trollop - but with a knife in her - adds to the raw tension of the story. Only the congenial, Mike (Donald Cook) pleads with Tom to mend his wicked ways. He is, after all, Tom's only brother. Taut energy and the enigmatic presence of Cagney (then on the verge of international stardom) make "The Public Enemy" enthralling and electric.
Warner's DVD transfer is justly an improvement over previous video incarnations. Though age related artifacts still exist the remastered print elements are generally smooth and inviting. Certain brief sections of the film appear to have been duped in using second or third generation film sources, leading to a considerable variation in image quality. When it's good, the image exhibits a sharp, nicely contrasted beauty not found in previous releases of this film to video. The gray scale has been impeccibly rendered. There are moments where film grain will appear more excessive but this, again, is the fault of a 70 plus year old negative.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Public Enemy: The Warning that Failed July 25 2002
Format:VHS Tape
From the beginning of Prohibition in 1920, crime was the number one topic in the American consciousness. Organized crime was just establishing a stranglehold on nearly every sector of life and street crime punctuated by the use of the Tommy gun was becoming increasing evident. Hollywood lifted the previous blanket of movie anonymity on crime with the release of PUBLIC ENEMY in 1931. The producers were careful to insert two disclaimers that the characters in the film represented a type of criminal that had to be identified and eliminated. Tommy Powers, superbly played by an alternating snarling then smiling James Cagney, was meant to be seen more as an allegorical figure of vice run riot than as a fully fleshed human being. Unfortunately for the hopes of the censors, they did not figure on the capacity of James Cagney to invest his role of Tommy Powers with a complex surge of passion mixed with no small dose of audience sympathy that ultimately allows a straightjacket bound Powers to exit the final reel in such a way that the audience can feel the same loss that his brother felt when he opened the door to see Tommy fall through.
The movie opens with a juvenile Tommy living with his family in Chicago, learning even then the rudiments of a criminal code of honor and justice that he would adhere to for the rest of his life. At home, his policeman father often beats him with a strap in such a futile way that Tommy's nonchalant response brings to mind a future Marlon Brando telling his abductors who are beating him that his old man hits harder than that. Although the film does expicitly show the father being abusive to the rest of the family, director William Wellman suggests that the violence inflicted on a youthful Tommy is not limited only to him.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A BLOCKBUSTER IN 1931 Oct. 28 2001
Format:VHS Tape
This little Warner's flick was hot stuff back in 1931! Two friends, Tom (Jimmy) and Matt (Eddie Woods), start their career of criminal activities with petty thefts and later graduate to big-time rackets. Tom's brother (Donald Cook) cannot convice Tom to reform, but manages to keep his brother's sordid activities from their mother's (Beryl Mercer) knowledge. Cagney is terrific as usual in his zesty,energetic, keenly vivid and sharply humourous performance; both critics and the public alike took notice of this rising young star. Jean Harlow, as Gwen - the icey platinum blonde siren - hadn't yet learned the necessary techniques of film acting and her performance borders on being ludicrous; critics of the day were less than kind in their reviews. For some obscure reason, the second lead - Edward Woods - never clicked in films; just why I don't know; he was quite good as Matt and he was definitely photogenic - two years later, he was reduced to playing a bit as a bell-hop who brought John Barrymore his booze in DINNER AT EIGHT. One of the very few actresses I could never abide was the whiney Beryl Mercer. Originally, ZaSu Pitts was to play Lew Ayre's bedridden mother in ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT (made the year before) but preview audiences snickered at the very sight of her as they associated her with comedy roles - the very sight of Mercer - her replacement - is enough to make one wince! A classic scene: A less than enchanted Mae Clarke gets half a grapefruit smashed right smack onto her left cheek by the no-nonsense Jimmy at the breakfast table! (this was supposedly NOT in the shooting script, but rather improvised!).
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars great classic!!
loved this movie, very good gangster movie from the early 30's, you gotta love james gagney in this movie, what a joy
Published 20 months ago by Jason Heidman
5.0 out of 5 stars "The Public Enemy (1931) ... James Cagney ... William A. Wellman...
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... Read more
Published on Jan. 19 2011 by J. Lovins
5.0 out of 5 stars An Unforgettable Final Scene
There is very little waste in PUBLIC ENEMY and it is easy to see why this film caused such a sensation in 1931. Read more
Published on Aug. 8 2003 by Peter Kenney
4.0 out of 5 stars I...ain't...so...tough...
"The Pubic Enemy" is a textbook cautionary tale typical of 1930's crime flicks. Titillation and excitement disguised as a moral lesson warning good kids from the dark... Read more
Published on July 27 2003 by Zack Davisson
3.0 out of 5 stars good movie - good view of 1931.
I liked this movie less than I thought I might, based on the other reviews. I still give it 3 stars, as better than average, but not 4 or 5. Read more
Published on June 29 2003 by JediMack
3.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding classic Gangster film.
Better than Little Caesar, but not as good as Scarface, but still a damn fine gangster film. I enjoyed the life long rise and fall of Tommy Powers, there were many, many times that... Read more
Published on Feb. 6 2003 by A. L. Spieckerman
5.0 out of 5 stars This is the one with the "grapefruit scene" -- A Classic!
This powerful and stunning gangster film starrs James Cagney, a small time hood who eventually rises to the top as a notorious gangster. Read more
Published on July 4 2002 by Michael Mathena
5.0 out of 5 stars Influential and powerful, and still compelling.
The most powerful of all the Warners gangster films, 'Public Enemy' is still gripping viewing today. Read more
Published on Sept. 4 2001 by T. Maddison
4.0 out of 5 stars Still tough at 70
"The Public Enemy", the gangster drama that brought James Cagney to stardom, is just as tough and effective today as it was when first released in 1931. Read more
Published on Aug. 24 2001 by Edward
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good prohibition-period gangster film.
Rather old and it shows but Cagney carries the movie with force, at his best. The director tries to put a pacifist view on the flick but it only makes it hit harder. Read more
Published on Aug. 29 2000 by Century
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