Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

White Heat


Everybody remembers Cagney’s masterly performance. “Made it, Ma! Top of the world!” He was a gangster, which was familiar, but in earlier pics like this there was a sub-text of admiration, of the lone cowboy who doesn’t play by society’s rules but has some of his own. Not here. He is a psychopath with a very sick mother complex, plain and simple, there is nothing to like, though you can maybe sympathize with his crippling headaches. What may be hard to remember is just how very revolutionary it all was. It led the way to countless other hard, uncompromising, increasingly realistic screen portrayals. I was also bemused to see just how important a role the developing sciences of forensics and electronics played in the story. It’s all spelled out in A-B-C terms that today’s audiences wouldn’t need, it’s all very primitive, but it led the way to CSI and countless other series of today. The triple tail, aided by actual telephone/radios in police cars, and radio triangulation were among the high-tech features seen here, maybe for the first time.