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White Heat
White Heat
Actors: James Cagney, Virginia Mayo, Edmond O'Brien, Margaret Wycherly, Steve Cochran
Director: Raoul Walsh
Genres: Action & Adventure, Drama, Mystery & Suspense
NR     2005     1hr 54min

In his last role as a heartless gangster, James Cagney embarks on the prison break of a lifetime in this chilling tale that features one of the most riveting finales in movie history.


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Movie Details

Actors: James Cagney, Virginia Mayo, Edmond O'Brien, Margaret Wycherly, Steve Cochran
Director: Raoul Walsh
Creators: Sidney Hickox, Owen Marks, Louis F. Edelman, Ben Roberts, Ivan Goff, Virginia Kellogg
Genres: Action & Adventure, Drama, Mystery & Suspense
Sub-Genres: Crime, Classics, Mystery & Suspense
Studio: Warner Home Video
Format: DVD - Black and White,Full Screen - Closed-captioned,Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 01/25/2005
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/1949
Release Year: 2005
Run Time: 1hr 54min
Screens: Black and White,Full Screen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 1
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English
Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
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Movie Reviews

James Cagney as a Disturbed Gangster & Noir Protagonist.
mirasreviews | McLean, VA USA | 03/08/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

""White Heat" is unusual in that it is a genre film that is also widely considered to be film noir. It's immistakably a gangster film, yet it deviates from the conventions of that genre in that its main character, Cody Jarrett, is complex and introverted enough to be a noir protagonist. "White Heat" was masterfully directed by Raoul Walsh and features James Cagney in one of this most memorable gangster roles. Treasury Department investigator Philip Evans (John Archer) is hot on the trail of the notorious criminal Cody Jarrett (James Cagney) after the Jarrett gang has robbed a mail train, killing several people and making off with a substantial sum. In order to guarantee himself immunity from the multiple murder charge, Cody confesses to an out-of-state robbery that took place at the same time, for which he receives a couple of years in prison. But the Feds are wise to his scheme and place an undercover agent (Edmond O'Brien) in the cell with Cody, hoping to learn the identity of the person who launders money for the Jarrett gang.

The psychology of Cody Jarrett is the most striking aspect of "White Heat", and the element around which the story revolves. We are told by the federal investigators that Cody is actually "insane". He is bloodthirsty and so unstable that his pursuers fear that he will go completely off his head before they can learn anything from him. Cody also has a pathologically dependent relationship with his doting and equally ruthless mother, who is played to perfection by Margaret Wycherly. Cody is such an extreme personality that James Cagney's ability to make him completely believable is remarkable. The "good guy" undercover cop, Hank Fallon, is bland and submissive, which only increases our focus on Cody. Another striking characteristic of "White Heat" is its technophilia: The film spends a great deal of time demonstrating cutting edge surveillance technology that is used to track Cody. Cody is defeated more by technology and bureaucracy than he is by his own lunacy.

The DVD: Bonus features include a documentary about the film, a theatrical trailer, an audio commentary by author and film professor Dr. Drew Casper, and a "Warner Night at the Movies" prelude to the film. If you have time, "Warner Night at the Movies" is a nice feature. With an introduction by Leonard Maltin, Warner Brothers provides a nice collection of mini-features that emulate the now-defunct tradition of showing a cartoon, a short, a newsreel, and a trailer with every theatrical film. "White Heat" was released in 1949, so we have, from 1949: a trailer for the film "The Fountainhead" (2 minutes), a newsreel of the year's highlights (1 1/2 minutes), a short "Joe McDoakes" comedy, called "So You Think You're Not Guilty" (10 minutes), based on the old vaudeville routine "Pay the Two Dollars", and a Bugs Bunny cartoon called "Homeless Hare" (7 minutes). You can also watch the featurettes separately if you like. "White Heat: Top of the World" (16 minutes) features interviews with filmmakers, critics, and theorists, including Martin Scorsese and Alain Silver, in which they discuss the film's themes, James Cagney's role, and the characters of Cody, Ma, and Cody's wife Verna, played by Virginia Mayo. The audio commentary by Drew Casper approaches "White Heat" as a gangster film, not as film noir, as this seems to be Dr. Casper's area of expertise. Casper talks about how the film was promoted, James Cagney, Freudian influences, themes, and analyzes director Raoul Walsh's style for some scenes. Subtitles are available for the film in English, Spanish, and French."
The film that ended the 40's with a bang.
mirasreviews | 06/30/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I have seen White Heat numerous times and it never flags or fails. It's the swan song of Warner Brothers gangster films and is one of the wildest rides you can imagine. It's a heist film, with a twist and it comes in the form of a gangster so bent, so over the top, that no one has come close to it.No one is stupid enough to try. James Cagney plays Cody Jarrett, a ruthless gangster,killer,strong arm robber and mama's boy. His work is so compelling, so overwhelming and vicious that it stunned viewers in 1949 and followed Cagney for the rest of his career. Cagney loathed the success of the role, fearing that it overshadowed all of his other screen performances, which it did, for its successful portrayal of a lunatic force of nature. Cagney was an actor who could and did anything. Gangsters, screwball comedies, dramas, musicals, westerns, war films, and Shakespeare. To be typed as an insane killer, who could shoot trapped henchmen in a car trunk while munching on a chicken leg, while throwing off one liners,was not what he wanted to be remembered for, but watch White Heat and see if this work can be easily forgotten. White Heat's non-stop action, it's no nonsense propulsion is provided by a solid script, great character actors, and the perceptive eye of director Raoul Walsh. We find ourselves clearly rooting for a psychopathic killer, because most of the world he moves through is populated with nothing but thieves, backstabbers and robot like FBI agents who walk and talk like Hal 2000's. And check out the role of Fallon (Edmond O'Brien). It's a cunning performance and contributes to the overall weirdness of White Heat. No sense giving the ending away, but it did introduce audiences to the cataclysmic force of the atomic age in all it's craziness. You have to go to Kiss Me Deadly to find an ending that gets close to matching it. I hate numerology, but if you like segmenting films by decades, White Heat is the film that ends the 1940's. Nothing comes close."
Nix Pix | Windsor, Ontario, Canada | 01/27/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"The intense character study of criminal insanity in Raoul Walsh's "White Heat" (1949) is most likely the other great Cagney performance that has endured the test of time in Warner's gangster genre. Cagney plays the psychotic and sadistic Arthur 'Cody' Jarrett, a ruthless gang leader with a penchant for deriving pleasure from the affliction of pain. Plagued by torturous headaches and a mother fixation with Freud written all over it, Cody revels in murdering his wounded accomplice during a jail break. Cody's 'ma' (Margaret Whycherly) has allowed herself the luxury to forget that she's given birth to the criminal anti-Christ. Meanwhile, Cody's wife, Verna (Virginia Mayo) flaunts her sexuality to every man she meets while enduring the brutality and neglect of her unstable husband. This, of course, ends badly for all concerned. The plot thickens when a henchman plots an 'accident' for Cody, that is foiled when an undercover cop, Vic Pardo (Edmund O'Brien) inflitrates the gang. The finale of this barn-burner will justly go down as one of the greatest in all crime films, as Cody - betrayed and about to die, shouts triumphantly, "Made it, ma! Top of the world!" against the backdrop of a burning chemical plant. "White Heat" may have been a remake twice removed, but neither the 26' nor the 34' versions come close to the immediate panic and raw hysteria of this great film classic.

Warner's DVD exhibits exemplary image quality throughout. The gray scale is rich and nicely balanced with deep solid blacks, clean whites and fine distinctions of tonality. Fine details are fully realized, even during some of the darker scenes. Occasionally film grain and minor dirt and scratches appear but these will certainly not distract. The image quality overall is sharp and consistent for a presentation that will surely please. The audio is mono but extremely well balanced and very nicely represented. Extras include an adequate audio commentary by noted authoritarian, Drew Casper, a newly produced featurette which is very succinct and Leonard Maltin's hosting of "Warner's Night At The Movies". Highly recommended!
THE James Cagney performance.
Miles D. Moore | Alexandria, VA USA | 02/05/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

"James Cagney never exceeded, before or after, his achievement in Raoul Walsh's "White Heat," and indeed few actors have even equaled what Cagney did in that film. His performance as the evil, psychotic yet charismatic Cody Jarrett is the absolute high-water mark for the screen portrayal of a career criminal. Cagney's charisma is so overwhelming that we, the audience, despise the federal agent (Edmond O'Brien) who infiltrates Jarrett's gang and finally betrays him. O'Brien's character is as upright, courageous and resourceful as anyone could wish; yet he's just a worm compared with the breathtaking power of Cagney's Jarrett. Cagney implicates the audience in his crimes more than any of Hitchcock's villains ever did, and indirectly sounds a warning about certain other charismatic characters who have turned up now and then on the political scene. Of course a great performance can't exist in a vacuum; besides Cagney's brilliance and the yeoman service of O'Brien as the federal agent, there are superb performances by Virginia Mayo as Verna, Jarrett's treacherous, trailer-trash wife; Steve Cochran as Big Ed, the thug with big ideas but no brains or guts to back them up; and especially Margaret Wycherly as Jarrett's mom, turning her saintly-mother image from "Sergeant York" on its ear, smiling her icy smile in approval of her son's bloody predations. A brilliant melding of film noir and police procedural, "White Heat" is unquestionably one of the greatest gangster movies ever made. The new DVD of "White Heat" from Warner Brothers is a wow; the print is crisp and excellent, and there are loads of extras including an interesting featurette on the making of "White Heat" and a recreation of a 1950 "Night at the Movies" including newsreels, a short subject and a wonderful Bugs Bunny cartoon, "Homeless Hare.""