Picture Snatcher (1933)

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3.5 stars out of 4. Classic Jimmy. The above poster says it all.

Here we have a pure Cagney vehicle, and one where he is allowed to keep the trademark snarkiness that still endears him to film fans while actually being a good guy for a change. Picture Snatcher deals with tabloid journalism and trying to get that perfect stolen shot of the juiciest story to sell editions before the next guy. Has very much changed all these years later?

Here we see the Warners machine really getting revved up, particularly its usage of the same tried and true on staff directors who could make even the lowest of pictures sing. Here the film is directed by Lloyd Bacon who does a remarkable job at keeping this one tight and compact as it crams quite a bit of story into its blistering 77 minute runtime.

Cagney plays an ex-con just out of the joint who takes up an offer to join a tabloid and lands the job of photographer after a particularly dangerous shot gets him the job. His supervisor is a surprising Ralph Bellamy, who portrays a cynical and beaten drunkard who once had grand ideals of journalism. Bellamy who seemed forever stuck in the role of the country bumpkin does really fine work here, showing even earlier on that he had the necessary dramatic chops to to portray greater roles.

But it is Jimmy Cagney who we’re staring at, it’s his picture and for good reason. Nobody else could have sold us a guy who so blatantly teeters on the line of good taste and breaking the law again. When they finally gave him his own starring vehicles, Cagney was basically unleashed upon the whole WB classic era backlot. From charming the ladies to worming his way into an execution to secretly snap the shot of the chair flashing…this is pure PreCode fun in every way possible.

The second entry in WBs Gangsters Vol. 3 set, complete with commentary and Night at the Movies option.

The transfer is solid with good sound, and miles ahead of previous tape copies.

If you don’t have the WB Gangster sets, what’s stopping you? The probability of these ever hitting Blu-ray is practically nil.

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Filed under 3.5 stars, Cagney, Film Review

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