Sunday, December 13, 2009

50. Little Caesar (1930)

Running Time: 79 minutes
Directed By: Mervyn LeRoy
Written By: Francis Edward Faragoh, Robert N. Lee, from the novel by W.R. Burnett
Main Cast: Edward G. Robinson, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Glenda Farrell, William Collier Jr., Sidney Blackmer

"MOTHER OF MERCY, IS THIS THE END OF RICO?"

Edward G. Robinson plays the title character of Caesar Enrico Bandello, aka Little Caesar, aka Rico and puts on an absolutely outstanding performance, in a film that turns out to be a one man show.

Rico and his partner Joe Massara (Fairbanks) realize that they're small potatoes, working as gangsters in the sticks, robbing two bit gas stations and never making as much loot as they'd like to. When Rico sees a newspaper article about big time mobster Pete Montana, he immediately sees stars and convinces Joe to follow him east, to the city of Chicago, where they can finally make their fortune.

Upon arriving in Chicago, Rico doesn't waste any time getting in good with another big time mobster, Sam Vettori, while Joe follows his aspirations of being a dancer and entertainer. Joe scores a nice spot as a dancer at The Bronze Peacock, where he meets and falls in love with Olga (Farrell), his dancing partner and soon to be lover. When Rico and his new crew get the idea to stick up the Bronze Peacock, they bring Joe in on the scheme and though he's reluctant, helps the gang pull off the heist. During the job, the newly appointed Crime Commissioner McClure gets shot, by none other than Rico and that's where the tide starts to turn.

Soon Rico weasles his way to the top of his own crew, powering out Vettori and taking over the gang. Before too long, Rico finds himself at the top of the crime world, even getting bigger than Pete Montana, the man who made him realize the fame and fortune for the big time, in the first place.

Along with war movies, gangster flicks aren't anywhere near the top on my list of favorite genres, however, I do find it easier to find good mob films and I'd have to brand "Little Caesar" as about an average one. There's no question that Robinson turns in an absolutely stellar performance as Little Caesar Bandello, talking as if his cheeks are stuffed with gauze and his nose is plugged with tissue paper. It's also quite interesting to see Caesar's rise to fame in the crime underworld, only to see him topple back down the ladder of illegal success. Fairbanks also hands in a passable performance as Joe, but it's not hard to identify who the real star of this film is.

RATING: 5/10 We'll cut it right down the middle as far as ratings go, and leave it at that.

NEXT UP: All Quiet On the Western Front...From war on the streets to war in the trenches.

December 13, 2009 12:34am

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