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Warner Pictures Gangster Collection Vol. 3
James Cagney, Ralph Bellamy, Patricia Ellis
Directed by Lloyd Bacon
Warner Brothers 1933
Warner Home Video 2008
Part of the Warner Pictures Gangster Collection Volume 3 6 DVD set, Picture Snatcher is a fun, comedic movie. It is in this set because Cagney’s character, Danny Kean, is a former criminal and the movie has a violent scene near the end. Kean, freshly released from prison, decides to go legit and calls on a newspaperman he befriended. The newspaperman (the very versatile Ralph Bellamy playing a funny drunk here) gives Cagney a tough photography assignment. Kean’s success with that first task lands him a series of other photography assignments for the paper where he uses his former criminal wiles to get the job done. He will eventually score the biggest scoop: a picture of a woman being fried on the electric chair
Picture Snatcher is based in part on the real exploit of a news photographer who took a picture of murderess Ruth Snyder as she was being fried. Still, this is a lightweight movie that has aged pretty well to the paparazzi age. There are quite a few funny scenes here. An early one has Kean playing insurance adjustor to steal a wedding photo. Kean’s method for hitting on a journalism student is unique and that sets up a funny confrontation with the girl’s father aka the guy who put Kean in the hoosegow in the first place. The friendship between the Cagney and Bellamy characters also sets up a few funny moments. There are many other comic scenes in here including Kean “writing” the article to go with the famous picture.
For someone not familiar with Cagney, this DVD was a revelation. Cagney brought an energy to the role and on the screen few actors could do or have done. Nowadays, his acting style would probably have been drummed out by an acting school or a director, had he been given a part at all. This is a refreshing change from the “insert actor here” modern style of movie making.
The movie looks crisp for the most part except a couple of exterior scenes. This DVD is another Warner Night At The Movies offering. This means you get a 1933 newsreel, a musical number, a black and white Porky Pig Cartoon, and a couple of trailers.
I usually have a very low opinion of commentary tracks and this one by Jeffrey Vance and Tony Maietta is one of the worst I have ever heard. You can actually hear one of the so-called experts blandly read his notes. You even wonder if he actually saw the movie.