HOME |  CULT MOVIES | COMPETITIONS | ADVERTISE |  CONTACT US |  ABOUT US
 
 
Newest Reviews
Free Solo
Mifune: The Last Samurai
Stan and Ollie
Girl in the Spider's Web, The
Up from the Depths
Guardians of the Tomb
November Man, The
Overlord
Sebastiane
Lifechanger
Circle of Two
Hell Fest
Oklahoma!
Nutcracker and the Four Realms, The
Vigilante Force
Haunting of Sharon Tate, The
Paradox
Peppermint
Sharkwater Extinction
Isn't It Romantic
Sink the Bismarck!
Possum
Submergence
Slaughterhouse Rulez
Atalante, L'
Halloween
Maurice
Hannah
Police Academy 5: Assignment Miami Beach
Edmond
   
 
Newest Articles
Killer Apps: The Rise of the Evil 60s Supercomputers
How 1970s Can You Get? Cliff Richard in Take Me High vs Never Too Young to Rock
A Perfect Engine, An Eating Machine: The Jaws Series
Phwoar, Missus! Sexytime for Hollywood
He-Maniacs: Ridiculous 80s Action
All's Welles That Ends Welles: Orson Welles Great Mysteries Volume 1 on DVD
Shut It! The Sweeney Double Bill: Two Blu-rays from Network
Network Sitcom Movie Double Bill: Till Death Us Do Part and Man About the House on Blu-ray
No, THIS Must Be the Place: True Stories on Blu-ray
Alf Garnett's Life After Death: Till Death... and The Thoughts of Chairman Alf on DVD
Balance of Power: Harold Pinter at the BBC on DVD
Strange Days 2: The Second Science Fiction Weirdness Wave
Strange Days: When Science Fiction Went Weird
Ha Ha Haaargh: Interview With Camp Death III in 2D! Director Matt Frame
Phone Freak: When a Stranger Calls on Blu-ray
   
 
  White Heat Mother's BoyBuy this film here.
Year: 1949
Director: Raoul Walsh
Stars: James Cagney, Virginia Mayo, Edmond O'Brien, Margaret Wycherly, Steve Cochran, John Archer, Wally Cassell, Fred Clark
Genre: Thriller
Rating:  9 (from 2 votes)
Review: Cody Jarrett (James Cagney) has arranged a meeting for the train that is about to travel through that tunnel. There are two of his gang already on board with instructions to stop it when it reaches this point and they have no qualms about using force - just like their boss. The train grinds to a halt and Jarrett's men set about liberating a large sum of money from one of the carriages while he stays up front with the drivers, but the henchman with him keeps giving the game away, calling Jarrett by his name in front of them. What's a psychopathic gangster to do but gun them down? And they won't be the only ones to die by his hand...

Considered a real shocker when it was initially released thanks to scenes of violence more explicit than much that had gone before in Hollywood, there was another reason White Heat was such a sensational property back in 1949. For this was the era when American films had discovered psychology and thanks to the teachings of Sigmund Freud the characters in thrillers might as well have been lying on the psychiatrist's couch. So it wasn't enough that Jarrett was a kill-crazy criminal, he had to have a fixation on his mother too and Cagney was the ideal choice to bring out the worst in his lead.

Of course, Cagney had made his name in the thirties playing gangsters, but Jarrett was more extreme than any of them. Behind every great man is a great woman, and Ma (Margaret Wycherly is almost as skin-crawling as her screen son) is the power behind a terrible man. And yet, with Cagney as the star he is the centre of attention at all times; even when he's not in the scene everyone is talking about him and such is his charisma that we want to spend the whole film with him, never mind how vile he is. Jarrett is seriously unbalanced: he suffers crippling headaches, he will murder anyone who doesn't fit his plan, his interest in Ma goes beyond simple affection and you certainly wouldn't want to meet him in real life, but damn if he isn't the hero.

The actual hero is supposed to be Edmond O'Brien's undercover cop calling himself Vic Pardo. When it looks as if Cody will get the electric chair for his crimes, he allows himself to be caught by the police and charged with a lesser robbery charge - he'll be out in two years, if that. White Heat then turns prison melodrama, with Pardo as Jarrett's cellmate persuading him to break out so the law can catch him in the act, so far so we've seen it all before, but Ivan Goff and Ben Roberts' script (from Virgina Kellogg's story) adds a wealth of eccentric touches, from the near-deaf jailbird who spies on conversations by lipreading to perhaps the most famous scene in Cagney's career.

This happens when he receives a bit of bad news about Ma, and duly freaks out in a scene which at once exposes Jarrett as pathetic and highly dangerous. There's also a sick sense of humour running through the film, whether it's Cody sitting on Ma's lap at one point (Cagney and director Raoul Walsh were surprised this got past the censors), or the manner in which he lets a doublecrosser have some air when shut in the trunk of a car. Mix all that with a snappy editing and you have a punchy and vivid gangster thriller that few have topped, even if it is an homage to all those Warner Bros' films in the same genre of the decade previous. Jarrett has a wife, incidentally, she's the scheming Verna (Virginia Mayo) who pouts and cowers like a little girl when he's around, but we're never in any doubt of who the woman in his heart really is. The film is twisted, exciting, features a fantastic Cagney performance fully deserving of its high reputation - and has that terrific ending. Music by Max Steiner.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

This review has been viewed 3137 time(s).

As a member you could Rate this film

 

Raoul Walsh  (1887 - 1980)

American director with a talent for crime thrillers. Originally an actor (he played John Wilkes Booth in Birth of a Nation) his biggest silent movie successes were The Thief of Bagdad and What Price Glory? He lost an eye while directing In Old Arizona, but went on to steady work helming a variety of films throughout the thirties, including The Bowery and Artists and Models.

After directing The Roaring Twenties, Walsh really hit his stride in the forties: They Drive By Night, High Sierra, Gentleman Jim, The Strawberry Blonde, Desperate Journey, Objective Burma!, Colorado Territory and the gangster classic White Heat were all highlights. Come the fifties, films included A Lion is in the Streets and The Naked and the Dead, but the quality dipped, although he continued working into the sixties. He also directed the infamous Jack Benny film The Horn Blows at Midnight (which isn't that bad!).

 
Review Comments (0)


Untitled 1

Login
  Username:
 
  Password:
 
   
 
Forgotten your details? Enter email address in Username box and click Reminder. Your details will be emailed to you.
   

Latest Poll
Which star do you think makes the best coffee?
Emma Stone
Anna Kendrick
Michelle Rodriguez
Sir Patrick Stewart
   
 
   

Recent Visitors
Graeme Clark
Enoch Sneed
Andrew Pragasam
George White
Stately Wayne Manor
Paul Smith
Darren Jones
Aseels Almasi
   

 

Last Updated: