The Escape (1939) Movie Review: An Emotionally Charged Gangster Classic

A film that deserves discovery from the Golden Age of Hollywood.
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As we all know, the greatest year in Hollywood history was 1939, and it was really the year of Gone With The Wind, which remains one of the most popular movies of all-time. There were also other influential films, such as The Wizard of Oz, Goodbye Mr. Chips, Love Affair, Stagecoach, Wuthering Heights, Dark Victory, Destry Rides Again, and The Women. But, if there was one film that deserves discovery from this pivotal year, it is Ricardo Cortez's minimalist, but emotionally charged gangster classic, The Escape.

The story takes place in the slums of New York, where reformed gangster Louie Peronni (Edward Norris) comes home from prison to find that not only has his wife, Annie (June Gale), had a baby and given it up for adoption, but that his sister, Juli (Amanda Duff), is in love with Eddie Farrell (Kane Richmond), a policeman. So because of these sudden events he finds himself drawn back into a life of crime, and soon lives to regret his way of life after he finds out that his own gang has kidnapped his daughter in order to make him take the complete rap. It all culminates in a thrilling finale where everyone's lives involved will be changed forever.

What I love about this movie is the interactions between the characters, and the ways that there lives all interact. It probably wasn't the first film of its kind to go this route into emotionally driven storytelling, with the theme of redemption thrown into the mix, but in my opinion, it was one of the best to do so.

The cast, especially Edward Norris as Louie, makes the most of the very small running time, only 58 minutes. Henry Armetta, who played Guiseppi Peronni, Louie and Juli's father, gives a very realistic performance as a man torn between the love of his son and his son's criminal ways. Hunky Kane Richmond gives a great, charismatic performance as Eddie, the cop trying to do the right thing, even if it puts him in dangerous circumstances.

The DVD, released by Fox, as part of their Cinema Archives MOD collection, is as usual, completely bare bones, and has no trailer, nor scene selection, so I was very disappointed in its presentation. I was hoping that this actually great movie would have received a much better treatment, but I was wrong, so purchase it will extreme discretion, especially if you like classic movies,

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