”G” Men appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; due to those dimensions, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. This wasn’t one of the best transfers I’ve seen for a Thirties movie, but it mostly satisfied.
Sharpness was usually fine. Some scenes were a bit soft, and the film could come across as a little ill-defined at times. However, the majority of the flick was acceptably concise and accurate. I noticed no signs of jagged edges or shimmering, but some light edge enhancement appeared.
Blacks worked well, as they were deep and taut. Contrast was solid, and low-light shots seemed smooth and distinct. Source flaws were a periodic concern. A fair amount of grain showed up, and I noticed examples of specks, blotches, grit, stripes and tears. These remained acceptably modest for a 71-year-old movie, though they created occasional distractions. Overall, this was a good image.
I felt the same way about the decent monaural soundtrack of ”G” Men. Speech tended to be a little brittle, but the lines were intelligible from start to finish. Music showed the restricted tones I expected. The score showed no real concerns, though, as it only suffered from this lack of heft. Effects were similarly thin but acceptable. The mix failed to deliver much range, which I expected. Some hiss showed up but no other source concerns occurred. Ultimately, this was an acceptable track.
When we head to the DVD’s supplements, we open with an audio commentary from film historian Richard Jewell. He provides a running, screen-specific discussion. Jewell talks about the movie’s 1949 prologue, the influence of studio executive Hal Wallis, cast and crew, the state of gangster flicks in the mid-Thirties and the effect of the Production Code, some history of the FBI and gangsters, Warner’s hopes for a new series of films, and the film’s reception and impact.
On the negative side, Jewell sometimes tends to simply narrate the movie, and a little dead air occurs. Nonetheless, he manages to fill his commentary with a lot of worthwhile material. He digs into the Warner archives for a number of fascinating tidbits and helps make this a rich and informative discussion despite some flaws.
As with the other DVDs in the “Tough Guy Collection”, ”G” Men comes with Warner Night at the Movies. This attempts to replicate the cinematic experience circa 1935. This feature starts with a preview for Devil Dogs of the Air. We also get a period newsreel, an animated short called Buddy the Gee Man and a Bob Hope short entitled The Old Gray Mayor. These are the kinds of pieces that might have preceded a theatrical showing of ”G” Men, so if you activate this feature, you get an attempt to duplicate a night at the cinema. I continue to really like this presentation.
Next comes a new featurette called Morality and the Code: A How-To Manual for Hollywood. This 20-minute and 35-second piece features movie snippets and interviews. We find notes from Jewell, film historians Lincoln D. Hurst, Patricia King Hanson, Anthony Slide, Eric Lax, Vivian Sobchack, Drew Gasper and Haden Guest, producers Irwin Winkler and Robert Evans, filmmakers Frank Miller, Larry Cohen, Lili Fini Zanuck and Martin Scorsese, screenwriter Michael B. Druxman, and actors Talia Shire, Theresa Russell and Michael Madsen. The show looks at the development and implementation of the Production Code and its restrictions. We also see ways the studios tried to work around the Code as well as how actors adapted.
Though some of these “Tough Guy” featurettes have been spotty, “Code” is pretty good. It concentrates more concisely on its subject than many of the others, and it offers a nice summation of its subject. We find a reasonably solid overview of Code-related issues in this interesting program.
Another vintage featurette pops up after this. We find How I Play Golf by Bobby Jones No. 11: Practice Shots. The 10-minute and 33-second program throws us onto the course with the legendary golfer as he provides some lessons. Why is it here? Because James Cagney makes an appearance along with other actors of the era. That means it offers a fun addition to the package.
In addition to the film’s trailer, we find Things You Never See On the Screen. This blooper reel runs nine minutes and 56 seconds as it presents the traditional roster of blunders and flubs. Its age makes it a little more interesting than most of its ilk.
”G” Men has its occasional moments, mainly when it gets into its action. Unfortunately, it comes with thin characters and a lot of awkward development. Those serve to make it an illogical, artificial exercise. The DVD presents decent picture and audio. It also tosses in some pretty good extras. This isn’t a stellar release, but if the film interests you, it’s worth a look.
Note that you can buy ”G” Men alone or as part of a six-movie “Tough Guys Collection”. The latter packages Men with San Quentin, Each Dawn I Die, A Slight Case of Murder, Bullets or Ballots , and City for Conquest. This set is a steal for folks who want to own the various movies. It retails for about $60, which equals the list price of three of the DVDs separately. It’s like a “buy three, get three free” deal and is a real bargain.