Litte Caesar

Litte Caesar (1930)
Warner Home Video
Cast: Edward G. Robinson, Douglas Fairbanks Jr.
Extras: Commentary Track, Featurette, Night At The Movies, Trailer

’Little Caesar’ was Edward G. Robinson’s break-through role. The rough character of Rico Bandello seemed so much tailor-made for the square-faced actor that he instantaneously became an icon for movie gangster despite the fact that Robinson’s own personality could not have been further from these villains. ’Little Caesar’ is a wonderfully put-together movie that is even more impressive in the light that it was a contemporary film at the time. Produced in 1930 it depicted the rise of a mobster in 1930, filled with violence, ruthlessness and the imagery of the era.

Warner Home Video is now releasing the film in its original fullframe ratio on this DVD. The image is generally clean, though there are scenes in which scratches and marks of wear clearly mar the image – mostly during optically treated shots, such as the credits and the cross fade cuts which were so popular back then. The image is a bit inconstant also in respects to contrast. While the majority of the film exhibits are well-balanced image with good grays, others are clearly harmed by a harsh look with bleeding blacks that are too deep and lose all shadow definition, and highlights that are washed out. No edge-enhancement is evident and the compression of the film has been handled very well.

The original mono audio track is provided on the DVD and it too shows its age. Harsh and untreated it also contains a bit of hiss and distortion. It is adequate for the overall presentation however and creates a true vintage feel.

This vintage flair is actually encompassed in the entire DVD. ’Warner’s Night At The Movies’ is a feature that re-creates the whole experience of a night at the movies back then, creating a play list that contains an original News Reel, a cartoon, trailer and the feature film, so that you simply sit back and enjoy the entire show.

Also included is a commentary track by film historian Richard B. Jewell, who certainly knows his stuff and is ready to unveil a great deal of background information about the films of the era, ’Little Caesar’ in particular as well as the cast and crew. I did find a few real gems in this commentary that I was not aware of, so make sure to check it out if you’re a genre fan.

To round out the release the DVD also contains a featurette called ’Litte Caesar: End Of Rico – Beginning Of The Antihero’ which takes a closer look at the phenomenon that with Rico bad guys suddenly had the potential to be true stars in movies.

I love ’Little Caesar.’ To me it is one of the best genre films of the time. It may show its age and it may feel a bit stilted today, but you just can’t escape Edward G. Robinson’s piercing aura in this film – or any other for that matter. A little more TLC would have gone a long way with this release, but still, it’s just great to have the chance to see it again.