Sony Pictures Home Entertainment presents
The American Gangster (The Mob Box) (1992)
"We only kill each other."- Ben Siegel (but don't call him Bugsy)
Stars: Dennis Farina
Director: Ben Burtt
MPAA Rating: Not RatedRun Time: 00h:47m:58s
Release Date: 2006-01-03
DVD ReviewThis brief documentary is sort of the cherry on the sundae that is Sony's Mob Box—it's the fourth disc in a set that yokes together three pretty fair recent organized crime movies (Donnie Brasco, Snatch and Bugsy), and offers a quick overview of some of their real-life, offscreen counterparts. It's not an exhaustive history of organized crime in America, by any stretch; rather, it's more of a highlight reel of mobsters from the early part of the last century. Organized crime has long been the flip side of the coin of the classic American immigrant experience, and so what we have here are principally Italian, Irish and Jewish immigrants who went over to the dark side rather than pursuing the American dream through the more conventional and socially sanctioned channels.
Dennis Farina narrates, and what's here is essentially organized crime's (pardon the phrase) greatest hits. The film is loaded with snippets of info on those who grabbed the tabloid headlines, many of whom later had their stories filmed by Hollywood—this roster includes Charlie Luciano, Meyer Lansky, Ben Siegel, John Dillinger, and Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow. It's a whirlwind of newspaper headlines, ancient newsreel clips, and artist's re-creations of grand Mob events, like the St. Valentine's Day Massacre, in the style of police drawings. There aren't any grand lessons or overarching themes; it's just a series of vignettes about those who were briefly on the top of the world, ma, before, usually, going down in a hail of bullets.
There are some odd artifacts, too—the film's researchers must have been working overtime in the coroners' archives, because there are many, many shots of the bodies of dead mobsters lying on gurneys. And the most curious image is representative of what led to Ben Siegel's demise: the movie lingers over a shot of some of the bounced checks from the Flamingo, the Las Vegas casino that was crazily overbudget, but that opened the floodgates for the fastest growing city in America.
Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B
|Aspect Ratio||1.33:1 - Full Frame|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: Some scratchiness, but that may be due to the age of so much of the footage.
Image Transfer Grade: B-
Audio Transfer Review: Farina's voice is over just about every second of the documentary, and the transfer seems to be serviceable.
Audio Transfer Grade: B-
Disc ExtrasStatic menu with music
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Extras Review: Given that this disc itself *is* sort of the extra in the box set of feature films, it's no surprise that there's nothing additional here.
Extras Grade: D-
Final CommentsA brief and reasonably informative orientation to the lives and deaths of gangsters that you may know better from their Hollywood incarnations.
Jon Danziger 2006-01-31