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I love pre-code gangster movies! While Warner's is the indisputable king, MGM threw out all the stops in what appears as an attempt to go head to head with Warner's in making a crime drama. The results are remarkable. The stars here are the cops, something WB didn't focus on until 3 years later with G-Men. Walter Huston does a remarkable job as a police captain whose badge is on the rise but whose not afraid to get his hands dirty. His career is endangered by his reckless, irresponsible younger brother (well played by Wallace Ford, very early in his career), also a cop, who's got an eye for hard-bitten gangland moll Jean Harlow. There's several fantastic scenes: Harlow's memorable line-up, Harlow's hoochie koochie dance, running outdoor gun battles and an outrageous final face-to-face confrontation between the cops and Hersholt's gang in a restaurant. Judging by the 1930's police tactics depicted, it'd be a miracle if anyone on the force survived till retirement. Cops continuously run fearlessly headlong into hails of lead without a thought to taking cover. Look for a young Mickey Rooney and those twin girls (the 14-year old Crane twins) that briefly announced Hal Roach's opening Our Gang credits as Huston's kids. Huston probably drew upon this role for the extremely weird Gabriel Over the White House the following year. Seeing Jean Hersholt (by all accounts one of the most lovable guys in Hollywood--- yeesh, he's got a humanitarian award named in his honor) playing a greasy Capone-esquire crime lord stretches disbelief, but at this point in his career he was considered a 'heavy,' and image that would drastically change over the next decade when he became synonymous with kindly Dr. Gillespie. Beast of the City gives you all this plus creative pre-Miranda police interviewing techniques--- it's cool to see those great 1929-31 Lincoln police cars racing around chasing bad guys with their blaring one-way radios. Beast of the City ranks with the best of the genre and thanks to TCM and TiVo I've seen it a dozen times... this is excellent! Rates a 10!
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