Welcome to the Lower East Side, where the high-rise apartments of the super-rich abut thetenements on the riverside. Here Joel McCrea, a poor would-be architect, is infatuated with richgirl Wendy Barrie, while poor girl Sylvia Sidney pines for him, all the while trying to save heryounger brother from a life of crime on the streets. Into the scene strides Humphrey Bogart as awanted killer, coming home to try to reconnect with his mother and an old flame. Intersectingwith the…adult storyline is that of the Dead End Kids (in what would be the first of many screenappearances), of which Sidney’s brother is the leader.
The film is based on a play, and boy can you tell. The studio set is deeply obvious as such,and the structure is too carefully symmetrical. The social symbolism is subtle as a sledgehammer,and the script is too caught up with being Worthy. Bogart’s performance is a striking one,however, and his character stands out as fully realized when compared to the walking SocialMessages incarnated by Sidney and McCrea. The Dead End Kids (also known as the East SideKids, the Bowery Boys, and the Little Tough Guys) would show again the following year inAngels with Dirty Faces, and viewing the two films together is instructive, showing,among other things, the difference between MGM’s gloss (which sat uneasily on a gangsterstory) and Warner’s far more convincing grit.
The mono track is in good shape. there is very little distortion or buzz of any kind, nor isthere any hiss. A solid, clean track like this is infinitely preferable to the many misguidedattempts at stereo remixes there are out there.
The print is in pretty good shape, but there’s no hiding the fact that this is a film from 1937.There is some grain apparent, but it is pretty minor. Now and then there is some print damage,notably a couple of instances of guitar strings. The black-and-white tones are solid, and while thesharpness varies a little bit, there numerous shots that look very impressive indeed.
The trailer is here, and nothing else. The menu is basic.
Once celebrated with Oscar nominations, this film now seems rather silly compared to theWarner gangster films of the same period. But it has a definite historical value, and certainlydeserves its release.
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