Monday, December 27, 2010

Bullets or Ballots (1936)

While I was watching the extras in the Humphrey Bogart: The Essential Collection (see my review and vlog here), a trailer for Bullets or Ballots (1936) caught my eye. I was so dazzled by the cast that I just went "gimme gimme". It went to the top of my Netflix queue and I eagerly anticipated it's arrival. 

It's a shame it didn't make it into the Bogie boxed set. It's more Bogie than most of the other gangster films he made with Warner Bros. Bogie plays one of his angriest roles as mobster Bugs Fenner. I've never seen Bogie make so many angry faces in one film! Bugs Fenner is part of a team of mobsters headed by Kruger (Barton MacLane) who takes his orders from 3 wealthy men who oversee the entire operation. Only Kruger knows who those 3 men are but Bugs Fenner isn't satisfied with being second to Kruger or third to the wealthy triumvirate. He wants all the power, he wants it now and he doesn't care who or what is in his way. In steps Johnny Blake (Edward G. Robinson), a police detective who's got an in with the mob and while he has always been good on his word is about to double-cross Kruger and all the mobsters in order to help the police bring the whole racket down. This is an excellent Bogie-Robinson film and it just gets better with the scenes showcasing spunky Joan Blondell as Lee Morgan, a numbers game gal whose making serious dough off of Harlem and the Bronx with her nickel and dime games.

Fenner (Bogie), Kruger (MacLane) and Blake (Robinson). The other triumvirate.

I'm angry, see? But I still look impeccable in my dapper suit and slicked back hair. 

Bogie and Robinson made 5 films together and this was their first one. The others include: Kid Galahad (1937), The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse (1938), Brother Orchid (1940) and Key Largo (1948). I've written about all of them and I'm sad there are no more new Bogie-Robinson films for me to discover. Bullets or Ballots (the title makes little sense in terms of the plot), is an entertaining and fast-paced 1930s gangster movie that is enjoyable and worth a viewing. Robinson excels as a mock-mobster as well as a police detective and Bogie wears a scowl so well in this film you'd figure that was the way his face was fastened on!

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