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"Let 'em have It' was released in 1935, the same year as "G Men"
starring James Cagney. Both films celebrate the exploits of law men
working for the newly formed FBI under J. Edgar Hoover. Our heroes are
played by Richard Arlen, Harvey Stephens, and Gordon Jones, with
Virginia Bruce in the female lead.
The early part is typical of the time, showing the FBI recruits undergoing training in detection methods, shooting skills, etc. The movie gains momentum when they go after vicious gang leader Joe Keefer, very menacingly played by Bruce Cabot. Keefer is on the lam and forces a doctor to change his face by plastic surgery. When the bandages come off - wow! It's worth the price of admission.
'Let 'em Have It (1935),' a taut 1930s gangster flick, has since fallen
out of all popular recognition, but remains worthwhile viewing if you
can find it thanks to the capable direction of Sam Wood, an
undervalued workman who gave us two Marx Brothers comedies ('A Night at
the Opera (1935)' and 'A Day at the Races (1937)') and the wonderful,
unforgettable 'Goodbye, Mr Chips (1939).' This particular gangster
thriller plays like a good version of Mann's 'Public Enemies (2009)': a
group of young men (Richard Arlen, Gordon Jones, Harvey Stephens),
having been recruited into the Department of Justice, must bring down
murderous bank-robber Joe Keefer (Bruce Cabot), who is crossing the
country looting and murdering at will.
The elegant presence of Virginia Bruce promises some romance for the ladies, but 'Let 'em Have It' is at its best when revelling in the intricate details of forensic procedure, whether it be matching the ballistic markings of a firearm, or reconstructing the profile of an assailant from teeth-marks left in an apple. The heroes occasionally seem like over-excited boy-scouts, especially Eric Linden as Buddy, but Richard Arlen has a quiet, brooding presence that offsets the occasional moments that resemble a thinly-veiled advertisement for Edgar J. Hoover's newly-named F.B.I. As Keefer, Bruce Cabot is also excellent, gradually spinning an innocuous small-time criminal into a murderous outlaw worthy of Dillinger or Baby Face Nelson. There's one scene that precludes the plastic surgery in Delmer Daves' noir 'Dark Passage (1947),' and a bandage unveiling that cannot be missed.
So you've seen Scarface, the Public Enemy, Little Ceasar, The Roaring
Twenties, and G-Men. You're in the mood for another rat-a-tat-tat
1930's gangster movie, but you think you've seen them all over and over
again. Then up pops Let 'Em Have It on a sparkling Classic Media/Sony
DVD, and it's just the ticket! This tough, no-nonsense cops and robbers
movie, showcasing the newly reorganized FBI's battle against organized
crime, parallels Warner Brothers' classic G-Men in theme and
presentation. It may therefore seem derivative, but only because G-Men
is better known. If fact the two movies were released only two weeks
apart in May 1935, which means the two were being filmed at the same
time. Apparently neither had any influence on the other.
In some respects Let 'Em Have It is a better picture than G-Men in spite of a "B" cast and production by a small independent Edward Small with distribution by United Artists. More restrained and therefore more believable than the flamboyant Warner Cagney vehicle, Let 'Em Have It is directed with style and dash by the great Sam Wood. Thankfully the training stage of the three young FBI agents, Richard Arlen, Harvey Stephens, and Gordon Jones, is handled with a few brief scenes instead of taking up a third of the running time as in G-Men. Certainly Arlen is not as dynamic a leading man as Cagney, but he's sincere and quite competent. Jones, usually in a clown role, plays it more straight here with only a few jokes as a character named Tex. But he's serious and deadly when on the trail of the crooks. Stephen's character, an Ivy League type formerly engaged to the leading lady and early intended kidnap victim Virginia Bruce, adds a touch of class to the trio of feds. The gorgeous Ms Bruce is a much better love interest for Arlen than Cagney had for G-Men in frigid Margaret Lindsay. Never mind the action sequences, the gowns worn by the statuesque Ms Bruce are the excitement in this show! Wow! She could act, too.
But this picture is carried by Bruce Cabot's performance as the cruel but charismatic leader of the murderous gang of kidnappers and bank robbers. He is totally ruthless, yet capable of acting slick, harmless, and innocent when it suits his purposes. His poor old honest mom, like the mothers of all delinquents still thinks he is "a good boy." Cabot had an occasional lead roll in his long career, most notably King Kong (1933) and Flame of New Orleans (1941). He could handle a good guy roll, but like Mae West, he was much better when he was bad. He's bad, bad, bad in Let 'Em Have It. His rendition of the scummy, amoral, murdering, unredeemed, yet fascinating criminal is up with Cagney in White Heat (1949) and Bogart in The Desperate Hours (1955).
Every gangster has to have his moll, and Cabot has two here. Joyce Compton is suitably hard-baked, no-class dame as the fatally fashion conscious accomplice in the gang's crime spree. When she gets captured by the cops, her place in the head thug's affections is taken over by a young Barbra Pepper, looking incredibly like a "B" Jean Harlow. Fans of TV screwball comedy series Green Acres will remember the aged Ms Pepper as the "mother" of the world's smartest pig Arnold Ziffel.
Let 'Em Have It is a well-acted, well-directed, well-filmed crime melodrama, precisely paced with plenty of action, good dramatics, intelligent script, and good dialog. While no doubt produced on a low budget, it never looks cheap. Sets are first rate with lots of outdoor scenes, many night scenes. Refreshingly absent is the official voice-over that often mars later police procedure pictures of this type. First rate in every way, it compares favorably to most of the Warner Brothers gangster cycle. Smooth, enjoyable entertainment from Hollywood's classic era.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Let Em' Have It- solid 1935 cops and robbers flick.We follow 3 G-men in training thru their first case.A little mix of melodrama and romance slow down the movie at times- but help to add emotion to the final third of the flick.The first case of the G-men is a kidnapping of a rich heiress-partially helped by the family driver.The G-men foil the kidnapping- but the heiress does not believe that the driver was in cahoots with the kidnappers.There is some good action mixed with some swell 30s dialog.The DVD has no extras but is a good transfer(not great but better than public domain classics issued by small-time outfits - since this one was re-released by Sony).Bruce Cabott excels as Keefer the family driver who decides to go into robbing banks-mixing charisma with anger and smarts he gives the G-men a good adversary.Worth renting for fans of classic gangster flicks. B
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
For an independent production (Reliance), this was a superior, hard
hitting gangster movie that followed hard on the heels of Warner Bros.
"G Men". I first saw it on television in the 60s and I will never
forget the shocking sequence when Bruce Cabot agrees to have plastic
surgery with disastrous results. The scene were Cabot takes his
bandages off - you don't see his face but you see the faces of his gang
members as they recoil in horror - it is a truly frightening scene. The
movie, directed with flair by the under rated Sam Wood, was highly
effective at pitting the FBI investigating methods against the more
exciting underworld adventures of Joe Keefer (Bruce Cabot) and his
After quite an interesting beginning showing the recruitment of ordinary men into the FBI to cope with the growing spread of lawlessness across America - the movie focuses on three men from different walks of life who become friends. The three are advised of a kidnap plan involving socialite Eleanor Spencer (luminous Virginia Bruce), an old girlfriend of Van's (Harvey Stephens). When the plot is foiled and the gang, including the Spencer chauffeur, Joe Keefer, goes to jail, Eleanor pleads for Joe's release, feeling he had nothing to do with it. After he is freed, he then rounds up his gang and goes on a reign of terror throughout the Mid West. Meanwhile Eleanor's younger brother Buddy (Eric Linden) ditches his law studies to become a G man. Eleanor is horrified and blames Mal (dashing Richard Arlen) (she has become romantically involved with him) for not trying hard enough to talk him out of it. The plot is very involving and meticulous, especially Buddy's hunt to find the person who owned the shoe that was left at the scene of one of the holdups. From the very start the action never stops, it seems so realistic - you feel this was how gangsters really operated then. I don't know whether there was any location shooting but the scene where the gangsters were rounded up from their hideout in the woods looked pretty real.
Bruce Cabot played Keefer with an almost psychotic zeal. He seemed to play a lot of movie heels and it was nice to see him get his comeuppance in this movie after being so horrible to Irene Dunne (in "Ann Vickers") and Helen Twelvetrees (in "Disgraced"). Eric Linden's film career had started with so much promise ("Are These Our Children" (1931)) but by 1933 he was completely fed up with Hollywood and announced his retirement. After a year spent traveling and writing he returned to the screen in "Let 'Em Have It", playing his stock in trade - an idealistic young man who wants to make good.
Highly, Highly Recommended.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The film begins with a class of rookie FBI* agents going through their
boot camp. Soon, three of the guys become friends and are soon assigned
to work together (how likely is this?). They're investigating a man the
agency thinks is part of an organized crime ring, Joe Keefer (Bruce
Cabot) and they soon end up arresting him. What's next? See the film
"Let 'em Have It" is a decent film but it suffers from a big problem. During the course of the movie, Agent Mal Stevens (Richard Arlen) falls in love with Eleanor Spencer (Virginia Bruce) and you have little reason to understand WHY. Sure, she's beautiful but she's also spoiled, obnoxious and sees very little value in the work these federal agents do. She even begs Mal to talk her brother** out of joining the force. Plus, when they catch her chauffeur with a stolen gun and tell her he's part of a gang, she fights them and convinces the parole board to release him (and he then goes on a reign of terror!). So, why would a dedicated agent want anything to do with her? And, why would a writer construct such a ridiculous relationship?! Sloppy, sloppy, sloppy! Without a few of these bad scenes, the film could have earned a 7 or 8.
On the positive side, it was a neat movie because of its very, very extensive use of forensics to solve crime. Using a some footprints, an apple and a glove, the experts are able to come up with a great idea of what a suspect looks like--and it's believable. Most old crime films rarely talk about such things and it's nice to see that "CSI", "Bones", "NCIS" and many other new shows are NOT the first to look at this side of an investigation--and that the techniques are NOT all brand-new and high tech. It was also nice to have some very competent actors--better than you might expect from a B-movie. Simply put, apart from the dumb and poorly written relationship between Arlen and Bruce, it was a pretty good film.
By the way, I noticed a couple reviewers seemed to think this film was better than the Jimmy Cagney film "G-Men"--also from 1935 and with similar subject matter. I simply didn't see this. While "Let 'em Have It" is awfully good for a small budgeted film from a tiny studio, it's not even close to the quality and entertainment level of "G-Men"...not even close.
*Oddly, I don't think they used the terms FBI or Federal Bureau of Investigation once during the film.
**It's funny, but when this scene occurred where Eleanor begs Mal to dissuade her brother from joining the force, I turned to my wife and said 'the brother will soon be dead!'--and, not surprisingly, he was! What a silly and poorly telegraphed plot element--and another bit of lousy writing. To make it worse, the young man is told NOT to go near the gangsters' hideout but does anyway--getting himself killed in the process! Duh...
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
You'd almost think J. Edgar Hoover himself directed this propaganda movie for his newly-formed FBI. In fact it was self-appointed Redbaiter Sam Wood, whose social and political views were almost identical to those of the FBI chieftain. And boy it shows. Wood's view of society is pretty clear-cut: you have decent, morally upstanding folk and hardened, unrepentant nogoodniks. That Bruce Cabot's character belongs to the latter category becomes clear when he tells his parents that his social aspirations aim higher than lifelong service as the family chauffeur. Of course social mobility is always suspect, people should know and keep their place in society and be content with it. Not only that, but as Richard Arlen's G-man states, Cabot also looks like a criminal! That's proof enough for our FBI boys to suspect him of kidnapping plans, and of course they're proved right. In fact, in the entire movie they're always on the right track, there's no point in trying to outsmart these guys. Why do those villains even bother? Well, because they're not just dumb, but downright evil, so the only cure is to let 'em have it. Depending on one's political views, you can either applaud or reject this movie,but i'm sure there are plenty of people who can enjoy this as an old-time gangster drama. I sure couldn't.
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