An honest police captain named McQuigg becomes a tough rival to a powerful bootlegger named Scarsi, even though McQuigg's pinches never stick because Scarsi and his organization control the corrupt politicians and judges. When Scarsi can't scare McQuigg off, he gets him transferred to a quiet police precinct in the suburbs, but McQuigg continues their war of words via a pair of wisecracking newspaper reporters. Then McQuigg catches a huge break when Scarsi's younger brother gets picked up for a hit and run accident in his precinct, putting in motion a complex plan to bring down the mobster using the reporters, a nightclub singing gold digger, the upcoming elections and Scari's own organization. Written by
Only one copy of the film is known to have survived. It was long thought lost before being located in Howard Hughes' film collection after his death. The film was restored and preserved by the University of Nevada, Las Vegas film department. The restored copy is frequently shown on Turner Classic Movies in the United States. See more »
I watched this in anticipation of Josef von Sternberg's UNDERWORLD (1927), a film that revolutionized the gangster genre which THE RACKET is as well (I am already familiar with its 1951 remake from the same producer, Howard Hughes). Playwright Bartlett Cormack helped adapt his own work to the screen; interestingly, the chief hoodlum during the original theatrical run was essayed by Edward G. Robinson who would achieve movie stardom with a similar role in LITTLE CAESAR (1930)!
Though the original was nominated for the Best Picture Oscar, ultimately, I still think that the later version is superior (even if nominal director John Cromwell ended up getting replaced by Nicholas Ray!) principally because there the antagonistic relationship at its core was formidably filled by Roberts Mitchum and Ryan! In this version, we have forgotten star Thomas Meighan as the quintessential (albeit over-age) Irish cop and burly but suitably smarmy Louis Wolheim (who would re-unite with director Milestone for his Oscar-winning masterpiece ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT ). From what I can recall, the plot is pretty much identical between the two versions (for the record, I own Warner's SE DVD of the 1951 movie, while the earlier one was restored for DVD release by Silent-movie specialists Flicker Alley but it somehow never hit stores!): the gangster not only muscles in on a rival (the entire mob's come-uppance in a speak-easy, during a party thrown in honor of Wolheim's younger brother no less, is superbly realized by Milestone) but even seems to have authority figures under his thumb (recalling in this way the recently-viewed THE GLASS KEY , down to a car-accident-turned-murder-rap which sends a ripple through the already murky waters) so that, no matter what he or his associates do, they are sure to get away scott-free!
In both, there is also a girl pretty but spirited Marie Prevost in 1928, sultry-yet-dull Lizabeth Scott in 1951 who first gets embroiled in the villain's schemes and, then, becomes a pawn in the protagonists' struggle for supremacy (which sees Meighan transferred to a precinct far removed from the center of activities and Wolheim tripping himself up by personally exacting revenge upon the cop who arrested his sibling). On the side-lines are a trio of reporters, two vaguely comical (though their antics only seem to exacerbate the feud between policeman and criminal!) and the other a rookie (who becomes involved with Prevost, and is actually the one to bring the villain to book) his eventual demise, then, emerges to be heavily tinged with irony!
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