"One of the best gangster movies ever made," is the first of many tributes to this wonderful movie in this bonus feature that comes with the "White Heat" DVD.
The first half of this 17-minute featurette about the film is a tribute to its star, James Cagney. To this day, film historians, critics, directors, whatever, are almost unanimous in their awe of Cagney's performance in here.
Here's an interesting tidbit: the horrifying scene where "Cody Jarrett" really loses it and screams over and over in agony and is carried out of the prison cafeteria in front of 300 men was put "under wraps." All those "extras" in that cafeteria did not know Cagney's breakdown was coming. That is why if you look at the prisoners in here, the shock on their faces look real because it WAS real! These actors were stunned at what they saw and heard as Cagney went berserk. It's still a shocking scene, even when you've seen it many times.
One historian caps it of by saying, "I think Cagney gives one of the greatest performances in the history of cinema."
There were a number of different things in this film that you wouldn't dream of ever seeing in any other film noir. How about the entrance of the beautiful female lead, played by Virginia Mayo. Her "entrance" is a picture of her lying in bed loudly snoring! Glamorous, huh? Later, she spits her gum out and then kisses Cagney. It's pointed out that director Raoul Walsh loved these trashy, independent tough women characters. By the way, they interview Mayo today and a senior citizen....and, let me tell you, she still looks quite good.
And - what other movie do you know where a mid-50s gangster/psycho has a scene where he's sitting on his mom's lap??! Margaret Wycherly, as the "mom from Hell," is given her due here, too. This was quite a departure from Wycherly's usual role and she was superb, too.
A very interesting feature on this classic film noir, one of the best of its genre. If you have the DVD, check this out.
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