Thursday, August 2, 2012


From 1935 through 1947, Metro Goldwyn-Mayer Studios produced a series of civic-minded theatrical short subjects dedicated to the premise that CRIME DOES NOT PAY. This series of violent morality plays ultimately ran to a staggering 50 shorts, with each installment running in the neighborhood of 15 to 20 minutes in length. Now Warner Archive brings these cops 'n robbers mini-classics to manufacture-on-demand DVD with a 6-disc collector's set.

With titles like BURIED LOOT, THE PERFECT SETUP, THE WRONG WAY OUT, HIT AND RUN, DRUNK DRIVER, etc., each of these tightly-plotted, compact melodramas opens with an introduction from the "MGM Crime Reporter," before diving into a tale devised specifically to demonstrate the ultimate futility of a life of illegality. A wide variety of crimes are portrayed over the series, from confidence games, burglaries, and various misdemeanors to grand larceny and murder. Most of the shorts attempt to advise the law-abiding citizen in how to avoid being drawn into criminal activity by gangsters and other felons out to exploit the trusting nature of honest civilians. Meanwhile, of course, the authorities are portrayed invariably as incorruptible, unbeatable paragons of law, order, and morality.

Despite their unavoidably preachy tone, the films also genuinely succeed as entertainment, with good production values, engaging storylines and generally solid performances.

Fans of classic Hollywood movies will recognize the familiar faces of the many MGM studio contract players populating the films (including J. Carroll Naish, Robert Taylor, Barry Nelson, Hugh Beaumont, Tom Neal, etc.),while amateur film historians will note the recognizable names among the directors. Some, like Fred Zinneman (FROM HERE TO ETERNITY) and Jaques Tourneur (OUT OF THE PAST), were rising stars, while others, like Edward Cahn (IT, THE TERROR FROM BEYOND SPACE) remained in the cost-efficient world of B-programmers.

The CRIME DOES NOT PAY - COMPLETE SHORTS COLLECTION from Warner Archive includes all fifty short subjects spread across six DVD-R discs. Like most MOD product, the shorts do not appear to have undergone any digital restoration, and picture quality varies from film to film. But, overall, the 1.37:1 black & white transfers look surprisingly good, with only very minor speckling, scratches and other print damage evident, consistently good contrast and fine detail resolution, and solid blacks. The 2.0 Dolby Mono audio is equally serviceable, with clear dialogue and minimal excess noise. The only "extra" is the 50th short, EYES OF THE NAVY, produced by MGM in 1940 and not technically a part of the CRIME DOES NOT PAY series.

Very much an item specifically aimed at classic film fans and aficionados of gangster/crime cinema, the Warner Archive  CRIME DOES NOT PAY collection is a treasure-trove for lovers of Old School Hollywood cops 'n robbers melodramas. Recommended.

BUYCrime Does Not Pay: The Complete Shorts Collection