(out of 5)
This excellent, beautifully shot drama is considered the film that sparked the craze for gangster movies in the thirties. Rough thug George Bancroft finds his lawyer friend Clive Brook at a bar and convinces him to give up the booze, turning the man from a useless bum to a dapper dan in no time. When Bancroft deals with a rival for Evelyn Brent‘s affection by getting violent with him, he goes to prison, which does not soothe his worries about losing his dame one bit. He immediately assumes that he has gone to the joint because she’s running around on him with Brook and that they’ve been plotting together from the beginning. Meanwhile, she actually does plot with Brook, but to work out how they’re going to bust Bancroft out and not to run away with each other. Shadowy photography pierced by gorgeous neon lights make it an early example of film noir well before it would become an industry standard, and the performances are terrific.
Directed by Josef von Sternberg
Cinematography by Bert Glennon
Music by Robert Israel
Costume Design by Travis Banton
Film Editing by E. Lloyd Sheldon