Caught this classic the other night for the first time in decades. Of course I’d seen the famous Cagney about-to-be-blown-sky-high-on-top-of-the-huge-oil-tank scene what seems like a million times, and almost as often the breakdown in the prison mess hall scene, but the movie from opening to end I hadn’t.
Despite what I consider the always uneven Edmund O’Brien in one of the two lead good guy roles (the other good guy role was John Archer who was mediocre at best) (no wonder kids always fall for the bad guys in movies and actors long to play them), Cagney’s amazing performance coupled with the rest of his thug crew (I’d love to have seen more of Steve Cochran as “Big Ed”—why didn’t he become a big star?) including his mom (the unique Margaret Wycherly) makes this an incredibly fascinating film to experience.
Not to mention Raul Walsh’s direction which kept the suspense so revved up at times I found myself squirming in my chair even though I knew what was going to happen.
Combine all that with the Greek tragedy plot and the attention to the latest (now so primitive) police technology details, made me realize WHITE HEAT is the MOBY DICK of film noir.
Top o’ the world ma!