The Movies' Love Affair with the Mob
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 Well-written, enjoyable survey of the American-born gangster film from D.W. Griffith to Martin Scorsese, with bows to Kurosawa, Godard, and the English division of gunmen. McCarty (The Modern Horror Film, 1990, etc.--not reviewed) gets better mileage out of his subject than might be expected. He contends that the silent-screen gangster sprang from the western gunslinger transposed to an urban setting--and that while the last great Western was Sam Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch (1969), the gangster film goes on blooming. According to McCarty, the more important early gangster films include D.W. Griffith's The Musketeers of Pig Alley (1912) and Raoul Walsh's five-reeler The Regeneration in 1915 (Walsh went on to make James Cagney's return to the genre, White Heat--in 1949). In The Blackbird (1926), man- of-a-thousand-faces Lon Chaney gave the gangster classic definition from which later film gangsters seldom swerved: ``He is an undisciplined child...who never grew up and still bitterly resents the `parental' authority of the police...[a] grandiose schemer determined to acquire wealth and power by the shortest route possible...the barrel of a gun.'' Ben Hecht's script for Josef von Sternberg's Underworld (1927) marshaled ``the many disparate elements of the burgeoning genre into a collective model for other filmmakers to emulate''--and soon Al Capone became the model for Little Caesar (1931) and Scarface (1932). McCarty goes on to weigh gangland, caper, and Yakuza films encyclopedically, from the shoddy to the fastidious, wisely separting flops from classics. Films we thought lost to oblivion arise freshly christened here, ready to dance. (One hundred b&w photographs)

Pub Date: Nov. 16th, 1993
ISBN: 0-312-09306-3
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 1993