Angels with Dirty Faces (1938)

If you create a user account, you can add your own review of this DVD

Released 9-Aug-2005

Cover Art

This review is sponsored by

Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Audio
Audio Commentary-Dana Polan (Film Historian)
Featurette-Warner Night At The Movies, With Intro By Leonard Maltin
Featurette-Angels With Dirty Faces: Whaddya Hear? Whaddya Say?
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1938
Running Time 93:20 (Case: 92)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (48:37) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4,5 Directed By Michael Curtiz

Warner Home Video
Starring James Cagney
Pat O'Brien
Humphrey Bogart
Ann Sheridan
George Bancroft
Billy Halop
Bobby Jordan
Leo Gorcey
Gabriel Dell
Huntz Hall
Bernard Punsly
Joe Downing
Edward Pawley
Case ?
RPI $19.95 Music Max Steiner

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Italian for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    During the early 1930s Gangster films were a popular film genre. They ran into opposition in the mid 1930s from the League of Decency and also from stricter enforcement of the Production Code. This resulted in the popularity of stories about law men, with films like G-Men (1935) gaining favour. By the late 1930s however gangster films made a bit of a comeback and Angels with Dirty Faces is one of the most memorable gangster films from this period.

    The film begins with teenage friends Rocky and Jerry (played in these early scenes by Frankie Burke and William Tracy) attempting to steal pens from a boxcar. They are soon interrupted by a security guard and the two make a run for it. Jerry is a little faster and gets away while Rocky is too slow and subsequently gets caught. From this point their two lives will divert into two very different directions. Jerry (now played by Pat O’Brian) will become a priest while Rocky (James Cagney) will become a gangster. Their lives however will continue to intersect and their childhood friendship leaves a strong bond between the two.

    Angels with Dirty Faces is a very polished gangster film and features particularly strong performances from James Cagney and Pat O’Brian who were good friends in real life. The film also features a young Humphrey Bogart before he was a big star. Bogart gives a fine performance as a somewhat corrupt lawyer, but is not as good as we see him in later films.

    Angels with Dirty Faces is probably one of the most emotionally moving of the gangster films. It is almost impossible to not be moved by the final scenes in this movie. This is a very polished film with top notch acting performances. For fans of the genre this one is not to be missed.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality


    I was less than impressed with the previous Warner gangster film I reviewed, Little Caesar, but thankfully Angels with Dirty Faces fares much better and while there is definitely still some very visible damage to this print the overall transfer is quite good.

    The film is presented at an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 which closely matches the original aspect ratio of 1.37:1. Obviously the transfer is not 16x9 enhanced.

    Overall image sharpness and detail is extremely good although it is a little variable at times. It was certainly superior to what I was expecting from a film of this age and I was quite impressed. Shadow detail and black levels were generally excellent. There is no low level noise in the transfer.

    Being a black and white film, discussion of colour is redundant but the gradation of grey scale was excellent with no banding between grey shades apparent which gives the presentation a wonderfully smooth film-like quality.

    The transfer itself is free of MPEG artefacts and edge enhancement but the print itself does exhibit a bit of damage, mostly in the form of white vertical scratches (see 7:23 for example) and small white specks (see 36:54 for example) indicating the damage is to the negative and not a theatrical print. These come and go but are littered throughout the film. There were also occasional black vertical marks such as at 79:51 but these were less common than the white ones. Reel change marks are also on the print such as at 17:23. Some grime on the negative is also apparent at a few points such as at 8:48 and 55:57 which appear as largish blemishes that last a few frames at a time. The print has also been torn and repaired diagonally at 56:22 lasting a few frames.

    Various subtitles options are available. I sampled the English subtitles which are white, easy to read and very accurate to the onscreen dialogue. The subtitles for the hearing impaired seem to be practically identical with the exception of the occasional description of off-screen sounds.

    The film is presented on a dual-layered disc which is RSDL encoded. The layer change occurs at 48:37 which is a dissolve between scenes and may be a little disruptive if your player doesn’t effectively buffer layer changes.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    Like the video, I was also pleasantly surprised by the audio on this disc. The mono soundtrack was of a higher quality than I was expecting from a film of this age and is generally free of distracting hiss, clicks or crackles.

    The English Soundtrack is Dolby Digital 1.0 encoded at 192 Kb/s.

    Dialogue was always clear and I didn’t observe any audio sync issues with this soundtrack.

    The original music by Max Steiner is a typical orchestral score from the period and is effective at underpinning the on-screen action.

    Being a mono soundtrack there is no surround or subwoofer activity to report.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    This was the second of the Warners Classic Gangster films I have reviewed and I continue to be impressed with the effort that Warner has put into these releases. Each of the films has a terrific collection of extras including a section titled ‘Warner Night at the Movies’ which aims to replicate the film-going experience somebody seeing these films during their original release would have experienced, and I must say it is a bit of treat (although I notice this time there is no theatrical trailer for a film of the time).


    Despite the fact that all the material on this DVD is 4x3 the menus are 16x9 enhanced which still doesn’t make any sense to me.

Audio Commentary - Professor Dana Polan

    Film school professor Dana Polan provides an in-depth analysis of the film. Normally I am a big fan of audio commentaries but I must admit I was unable to sit through this one. While Professor Polan does provide some interesting tid-bits of information the bulk of the commentary is about analysing every little detail of the film. Personally I find this sort of analysis simply takes the pleasure out of watching films and I can only recommend this commentary to people with an extremely academic interest in films.

Angels with Dirty Faces: Whaddya Hear? Whaddya Say? (22:16)

    This interesting documentary features various film critics, film historians and film scholars discussing various aspects of the film. They discuss the origins of the film, the production, its participants as well as interesting little facts such as how truckloads of fresh fruit were bought for certain scenes and then given away to the poor of L.A. at the end of the day. The documentary discusses the whole film and therefore should not be watched until after you have watched the film.

Theatrical Trailer (3:11)

    This theatrical trailer is typical of the style in the late 1930s and contains snippets from throughout the film. While it does contain shots from near the end of the film, it’s done in such a way as to not give away any key plot elements in the film. Quite well done.

Warner Night at the Movies

    This aims to replicate the experience of seeing the movie upon its it release and features shorts and trailers just as it would have been presented back in 1938. Full details below.

Introduction by Leonard Maltin (4:19)

    Leonard Maltin provides the introductions to all of these Warner gangster films and he provides an introduction to the film and to the shorts presented. Maltin is amiable and engaging and his love of cinema is very apparent.

Play All

    You can play all, just like you were watching it at the movie palace in 1938. Nice!

News Reel (2:05)

    This newsreel from 1938 includes footage from the signing of the Munich Peace Pact and also a passionate plea from then U.S. President Roosevelt for world peace.

Out where the stars begin (19:13)

    This Technicolor short film is about a dancer who wants to get a part in a film she knows is being cast. She takes a tourist studio tour which is an opportunity to show clips from then contemporary Warner films. The short also takes the opportunity to showcase some of their roster of stars. I found this whole short a little self-serving and by the end I was pretty bored by it.

Porky and Daffy (7:29)

    A classic Warner Bros. cartoon from 1938 featuring Daffy Duck as a boxer and Porky Pig as his trainer. In this early cartoon Daffy really lives up to his name and it’s really interesting seeing these characters before they developed into the characters we now know and love.

Angels with Dirty Faces

    This option allows you to view the film.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 4 DVD contains more subtitle options but the Region 1 contains a trailer for Boy Meets Girl in the 'Warner Night at the Movies' section. It's a pretty minor omission but just slightly pushes the Region 1 over the line as preferred version.


    Angels with Dirty Faces is a pivotal gangster film of the late 1930s and should not be missed by lovers of classic cinema.

    The print certainly shows some signs of age and damage but the actual transfer is quite good, exhibiting a sharp and detailed image.

    The mono soundtrack is very good.

    In line with the other Warner gangster film releases the extras package is excellent.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Michael Gauntlett (read my bio if you're bored.)
Thursday, November 24, 2005
Review Equipment
DVDSony DVPNS575-S Progressive Scan, using Component output
DisplayPanasonic PT-AE900E HD LCD Projector onto 90" 16x9 Screen. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 720p.
Audio DecoderLogitech 5500 THX. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials.
AmplificationLogitech 5500 THX
SpeakersLogitech 5500 THX

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add) NONE