Blu-ray movie reviews: ‘Each Dawn I Die’ and ‘Another Thin Man’
Here’s a look at a pair of classic black-and-white films from the 1930s, Each Dawn I Die and the sequel film, Another Thin Man, restored for the high definition format and available as part of the Warner Archive Collection.
Each Dawn I Die (Not rated, 1.37:1 aspect ratio, 92 minutes, $21.99) —
Director William Keighley’s 1939, black-and-white adaptation of Jerome Odlum’s gangster novel starred big-screen heavyweights James Cagney as investigative reporter Frank Ross and George Raft as gangster “Hood” Stacey.
The tale of redemption has Ross writing an expose on a crooked district attorney turned political candidate, getting framed for vehicular manslaughter and finding himself serving time in the same prison as lifer Stacey.
Stuck in the Rocky Point Penitentiary, the pair form a bond and work together to not only stay alive, avoid the ire of the prison guards but get Ross cleared of his crime with help from a courtroom escape and the reporter’s outside colleagues.
But everyone knows that you can’t trust a dirty rat like Stacey, or can you?
James Cagney and George Raft make a power duo
Besides watching these two legends act together on screen (the first time when both had a lead role in the same movie), the prison dialogue is just classic such as “go on scram outta here and get that fink,” or “you’re the dirty screw that killed my pal,” and “he had to have a payoff before he dummied up.”
The 1080p high definition remaster was sourced from the 4K scan of best-surviving nitrate preservation elements. Viewers will find the detail stunning down to the strands and fibers rolling through the twine-making machines in the prison, the textured clothing and the clarity of Cagney’s expressive eyes as he seethes in anger.
Best extras from Each Dawn I Die:
The Blu-ray disc offers the exact same generous assortment of goodies from the film’s DVD release back in 2006.
Viewers can first take a journey back to the old days when going to the movies was an event and first enjoy a collection of shorts before the main feature.
Dubbed Warner Night at the Movies, the collection includes a preview for the 1939 film “Wings of the Navy,” a vintage Movietone newsreel (the mystery war in Mongolia); the animated, politically incorrect short from director Tex Avery “Detouring America”; a documentary short titled “A Day at Santa Anita” (about a bond between a young girl and a racehorse); and an extra animated short “Each Dawn I Crow” starring John Rooster and farmer Elmer Fudd.
All totaled, that’s roughly an extra 40 minutes of entertainment.
Once done with the entire movie experience, rewatch “Each Dawn I Die” with an optional commentary track by film historian and curator of the Warner Bros. archives Haden Guest.
He offers an overview of the production, story themes and the gangster and prison genre with details down to Cagney’s dispute with Warner Bros., the literal visual metaphors seen across the film and the director’s dynamic use of framing.
Mr. Guest sometimes sounds like he’s reading a student book report, but he never disappoints with a stream of information.
Watch the 21-minute, 2006 featurette “Stool Pigeons and Pine Overcoats: The Language of Gangster Films”
This feature covers early tough-guy actors delivering dialogue, i.e. familiar street slang of the have-nots (punks and gangsters) versus the hoity-toity establishment.
It includes comments from Sin City comic book creator Frank Miller, “Reservoir Dogs” actor Michael Madsen, “Godfather” actress Talia Shire and “Goodfellows” writer Nicholas Pileggi; and film examples from the likes of James Cagney, Edward G. Robinson, and Humphrey Bogart.
Next, disc owners get to listen to the almost hour-long Lux Radio Theater broadcast of “Each Dawn I Die” from 1943. It was produced by Cecil B. DeMille (who introduces the show and plugs Lux soap) and starred George Raft as Stacey and an underwhelming Franchot Tone as Ross, unfortunately not James Cagney.
The extras conclude with a 14-minute blooper reel from 1930s Warner Bros. movies that even features Bette Davis and Edward G. Robinson swearing.
This video shows the 2021 1080p HD Master Sourced from 4K scan of best surviving nitrate preservation elements:
This video is of the original film trailer
Another Thin Man (Not rated, 1.37:1 aspect ratio, 103 minutes, $21.99) —
The third of the six “Thin Man” witty murder mystery movies offers director W.S. Van Dyke’s 1939 adaptation of hard-boiled detective novelist Dashiell Hammett’s short story “The Farewell Murder.”
Viewers meet famed, wise-cracking, alcohol-loving detective Nick Charles (William Powell), his wife Nora (Myrna Loy), and 1-year-old son Nick Jr. However, the feisty wired-haired terrier Asta is the star.
The family just moved back to New York City when they are invited to Long Island by cantankerous Col. Burr MacFay, the former business partner of Nora’s father. He is in dire fear of being killed by threatening criminal tough guy Phil Church (Sheldon Leonard) and asks Nick to protect him.
Well, MacFay’s fears come true. And now the great detective has a murder to solve and an obvious suspect, or does he?
Witty dialogue and plot twists abound throughout as the snappy chemistry between Powell and Loy is a joy to watch.
Shemp Howard cameo role a great surprise
And, pay careful attention to a rare appearance by legendary Stooge Shemp Howard as baby-renting hoodlum Wacky and the famed dance team Rene and Estela performing the rhumba.
The 1080p high definition master sourced from a 4K scan of best surviving preservation elements shines as it highlights the action with such clarity that it looks like the movie was shot using video cameras for a 1950s television show.
Best extras in Another Thin Man:
Before the main event, viewers can watch the eight-minute, 1939 color short “The Bookworm” directed by animation pioneers Friz Freleng and Hugh Harman.
Starring a bespeckled annelid, the little guy is on the crawl from a raven and Macbeth’s witches trying to use him in a potion. He ends up being rescued by famed characters such as Paul Revere, Robin Hood, and Black Beauty. Mel (Bugs) Blanc offers the voice of the Raven.
And, viewers get the 10-minute, black-and-white musical short “Love on Tap,” which has Penny (Mary Howard), the manager and choreographer of the Abbott Dancers, unable to find the time to get married due to her girls always having a problem.
Both vintage extras could use remastering.
• This story originally appeared in The Washington Times.