HOME |  JOIN |  CULT MOVIES | COMPETITIONS | ADVERTISE |  CONTACT US |  ABOUT US
 
 
Newest Reviews
Last Warrior, The
Artemis 81
Rampage
Quiet Place, A
Braven
Changeover, The
Isle of Dogs
Funny Cow
Maze Runner: The Death Cure
Mad to Be Normal
Beast of Burden
Dead Men Walk
Game Night
Under the Tree
L'Amant Double
Gonin
Coco
Producers, The
Molly's Game
Forest of the Lost Souls, The
Hatchet III
Birdman of Alcatraz
Pacific Rim: Uprising
Wonderstruck
If It Ain't Stiff, It Ain't Worth a Fuck
Nun, The
Red Sparrow
My Friend Dahmer
Journeyman
Heat, The
   
 
Newest Articles
The Ultimate Trip: The Original Psychedelic Movies
Players of Games: Willy Wonka, Tron and Ready Player One
What Am I Doing Hangin' 'Round? The Ends of The Monkees
Flings and Arrows: Conquest vs Flesh + Blood
Orson Around: F for Fake and The Late Great Planet Earth
ITC What You Did There: Retro-Action on Blu-ray
And It Was the Dirtiest Harry We Have Seen in a Very Long Time: The Dirty Harry Series
Manor On Movies: The Astounding She Monster
Manor On Movies: Don't be a dolt. That's not a cult (movie)
Wes Anderson's Big Daddies: Steve Zissou and Others
Bad Taste from Outer Space: Galaxy of Terror and Xtro
A Yen for the 1990s: Iron Monkey and Satan Returns
Hey, Punk: Jubilee and Rock 'n' Roll High School
Help! with The Knack: Richard Lester in 1965
Roll Up, Get Yer Free Cinema: The Shorts on the BFI Woodfall Blu-rays
   
 
  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 2855 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 film has the best theme song?
Spectre
The Ups and Downs of a Handyman
   
 
   

Recent Visitors
Graeme Clark
  Robert Segedy
Darren Jones
  Asma Amal
  Chris Lawrence
Enoch Sneed
George White
Stately Wayne Manor
   

 

Last Updated: