Martin Asiner | jersey city, nj United States | 01/26/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"It is too easy to view LITTLE CAESAR and to laugh at the often caricatured voice of Edward G. Robinson as the small time hood who clawed a rapid rise to the top of Chicago's underworld only to tumble equally fast. What the modern viewer may fail to grasp is that when LITTLE CAESAR was released in 1930 Robinson was no star and the gangster movie did not exist as a genre. With his menacing voice and tough guy attitude, Robinson changed all that. It is because of him that later cinema gangsters like Pacino and Brando could strut their stuff.At the beginning of the film, Robinson is Rico Bandello, the 'Little Caesar.' He drifts into Chicago and invites himself as a member of the ruling gang. Even then, with nothing but his gravitas and physical presence, he could take words that were meant to be conciliating and twist them into a snarl laden with menace. What I found interesting was that whenever Robinson went face to face with an adversary, Robinson forced him to look down at his own diminutive height as if to say, 'Your size means nothing, fool.' It becomes soon clear that the mob boss will surrender his place through default. Rico Bandello manages to cram into little more than an hour a case study in the ephemerality of the solitary gangster who relies more on his brutal personality than on some hired brains to run his criminal enterprise. On a technical note, the sound track was at times incomprehensible, an excusable flaw since sound engineering had just begun the year before. Further, the dialogue sounds incredibly cliched, but again, to the audience of 1930, Rico's words were jarringly original. When a gasping, dying, Little Caesar spits out as a last snarl of defiance, 'Is this the end of Rico?', Edward G. could not have known that his ending of this gangster film was but the prologue of a series of crime movies that are as popular today as when Rico Bandello lay on a filthy street, shocking America with his surprisingly emotional epitaph."
No, it's not about pizza
Gwen Kramer | Sunny and not-so-sunny California | 11/10/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I had never seen a golden age gangster picture before so I decided to make a start with this one. I mainly rented it to see Douglas Fairbanks jr. (being a fan of Fairbanks Sr.'s silent films) I thoroughly enjoyed it.A word of warning, this was made in 1930 and the sound cinema was still in it's infancy. Some of the acting is still between the mnore obvious emoting of silent cinema and the more subtle sound acting to come. Also, this was the start of a genre and so it is probably not as sleek as its successors.That out of the way, this is the tale of the rise and fall of Rico (Edward G. Robinson) known as Little Caesar. A small time gunman who claws his way to the top of the mob and then tumbles from his throne. His downfall is caused, inadvertantly at first, by Joe (Fairbaks), his best friend from his small time hood days who became a nightclub preformer and wants to leave the mob behind.Robinson chews up scenery as Rico and it is a joy to watch, in spite of sharing top billing, Fairbanks isn't in it all that much in the middle. Honorable mention goes to the actor who portrayed the head detective so well, he seemed to take almost satanic glee in catching crooks in their own egos.Another sidepoint, Rico is not likable because he was never meant to be. Sure, his determination is interesting but underneath it all he is just a petty operator. This movie really has no hero (Joe is a bit weak and the detective is off his rocker in my opinion) and to have this in mind before watching will keep things enjoyable."
Dancin'? Women? Where do they get you?
Steven Hellerstedt | 05/06/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"There are some movies that defy criticism. LITTLE CAESAR is a creaky old early talkie that suffers from static camera movements and competently undistinguished direction by Mervyn LeRoy. LITTLE CAESAR is one of the most important movies in Hollywood history, boasting a memorable to immortal performance by Edgar G. Robinson as the title character, Cesare Enrico `Rico' Bandello, and one of the greatest endings in cinema (Mother of mercy, is this the end of Rico!?) Whaddya know, whaddya say about a movie like LITTLE CAESAR? I suppose you start by saying it's a great movie, but it sure feels old. Action takes place around concealed microphones, musical underscoring is virtually nonexistent, and some of the melodramatic elements - like the scene with the doting Italian mother - seem to belong to the age of Victoria, paper collars, and gas footlights. On the other hand, Robinson's performance as the brutal and ambitious gangster is timeless and close to perfect. There's a glowering, guttural, feral quality to it that pulls the movie up with him. His best scene comes towards the end of the film. The fallen and unrecognized Rico, unslept eyes dark and watery, hip flash of hooch nearly drained, listens as a couple of other flophouse denizens read aloud a newspaper article about the great, missing Little Caesar. Robinson grunts and mewls as the newspaper is read aloud, responding to what he hears. With nothing but facial expressions, body language and grunts Robinson pulls back the skin covering Rico's psyche and presents it for public inspection. It's a marvelous bit of business tucked into one of the greatest movie acting jobs ever. The transfer print isn't pristine, but acceptable - usually pretty good. As is their custom with their Gangster releases, Warner Brothers packs the dvd with a bunch of extras. - The 17 min. `End of Rico, Beginning of the Antihero' special offers a brief history of the gangster movie from the silent era to the present, discusses how Robinson got the breakthrough part, and the history of the cigar as a prop in gangster movies. - Trailer for 1931's `Five Star Final,' a Edgar G. Robinson vehicle about sex, scandal, and tabloid newspapers. - The 6 min., one-reel short, `The Hard Guy', stars a very young Spencer Tracy as an out-of-work faddah wit' a sick kid in a depressed area of New York City. Best line - "Guy, you're getting hard-boiled again." - Cartoon `Lady, Play Your Mandolin.' Musical black-and-white Merrie Melodies offering. A happy-dance musical with spaghetti limbed gorillas and horses. Stars Warner Brothers' Mickey-Mouse-on-rat-pills star, Foxy. - The usual informative, worth-your-time entertaining commentary, this time supplied by film historian Richard Jewell. "
193O GANGSTER EPIC.
scotsladdie | 11/12/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The rise and fall of a vicious gangster. This is the landmark film that launched the gangster movie cycle, a powerful movie that chronicled for the first time in talkies the sleazy and slick underworld, epitomised by a snarling and ambitious creature with no redeeming virtues, Robinson, in the role which was forever identified with him. Eddie is a dedicated killer and thief as seen from the very beginning of the film: viewing him over 6O years later, the viewer can't help but to wonder at his incredibly perceptive performance. Rico has a pseudo homosexual relationship with Joe Massara (Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.) and the scene where Rico pays an old harridan (Lucille LaVerne) practically his entire fortune to hide him out in a secret back room of her store is memorable: boy, does she take advantage of the situation! The ending line was originally "Mother of God, is this the end of Rico?" In order to soften the tone for American Bible belt audiences, the line was changed to "Mother of mercy". The film was a huge smash in it's day and films such as THE PUBLIC ENEMY, SMART MONEY, THE FINGER POINTS & SCARFACE were soon to follow."
ICONIC WARNER GANGSTER CLASSIC
Robin Simmons | Palm Springs area, CA United States | 01/11/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Hollywood got the message when 37 year old Edward G. Robinson bellowed into the phone, "This is Rico speaking. Rico! R-I-C-O! Rico! Little Caesar, that's who!" in the iconic LITTLE CAESAR (1930). The dark moral tale recounts the rise and fall of pugnacious Caesar Enrico Bandello (Robinson), a hoodlum with a Chicago-sized chip on his shoulder, few attachments, fewer friends and no sense of mobster etiquette.
Extras: a 1930 newsreel, the Spencer Tracy short "The Hard Guy," "Lady Play Your Mandolin" cartoon and the new featurette "Little Caesar: End of Rico, Beginning of the Antihero." The interesting commentary's by cinema historian Richard Jewell.