Edward G. Robinson, Ann Sothern, Humphrey Bogart
Directed by Lloyd Bacon
Warner Brothers 1940
Warner Home Video 2008
Warner Brothers was best known for its crime pictures and actually came under heat from the movie censors for how violent and dark they were. This is no explanation for Brother Orchid, a gangster comedy were everybody plays the funny lines and situations perfectly straight. This odd comedy gangster movie is also available in the Warner Pictures Gangster Collection Volume 3, a 6 DVD set.
This is one very strange, somewhat uneven, entertaining movie. It plays like a forties noir movie and sounds like a comedy. If you like a smartly written movie, you are going to enjoy Brother Orchid as most of the funny is in the lines and the rest in the set ups and situations. For example, Mob Boss Johnny Sarto (Robinson) tells his toots: “When I come back, we’ll have a big church wedding.” “Geez, Johnny. I ain’t been in a church since your brother got bumped off.”
Underworld kingpin Johnny Sarto (Edward G. Robinson) is depressed because a rival got illuminated at a local greasy spoon and now there’s no place to get a plate of corned beef and cabbage. This makes him want to quit the racketeering business for good. Getting the business back five years later is not going to be easy even if Sarto gets help from his moll (Ann Sothern) and one of his men now hiding in an asylum. The confrontation between Sarto and his rival Jack Buck (Bogart) that sends Robinson into hiding in a monastery run by florist friars and some of the funniest bits takes a bit of a while. Still, the movie always manages to entertain with some solid comic acting, writing, and sight gags made even funnier for being in a crime movie.
Like all the other movies in Volume 3 of the Warner Brothers Pictures Gangster Collection, the Black Orchid DVD is packaged as an old-fashioned night at the movies with a newsreel, a musical number, and a cartoon or two. There is also a film expert commentary track