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Film Crime

Essay by review  •  September 19, 2010  •  Essay  •  1,623 Words (7 Pages)  •  926 Views

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Film genres are categories, classifications or groups of films that have a similar, familiar or instantly recognizable patterns, techniques or conventions that include one or more of the following: setting, content, themes, plot, motifs, styles, structures, situations, characters, and stars (filmsite.org and notes). There are many categories of film genre. These categories can cover practically any film ever made by man, although film categories can never be precise. By isolating the various elements in a film and categorizing them in genres, it is possible to easily evaluate a film within its genre and allow for meaningful comparisons and some judgements on greatness. Some genres are considered period-specific, occurring primarily in one time period. One such example is film noir (filmsite.org).

One specific type of film genre is the crime and gangster genre. These films are developed around the actions of criminals and/or gangsters. They are often based around bank robbers or ruthless hoodlums who disobey the law. They make their way through life by stealing and murdering people. There are many ways to identify crime and gangster films. A few ways to do so is to look at the story line and characters(randomhouse.com).

Crime stories in this genre often highlight or glorify the rise and fall of a particular criminal (s), gang, bank robber, murderer

or lawbreakers in personal power struggles or conflict with the law and order figures, or rival gang. Real-life gangsters and crime reports are often the basis for many crime and gangster films.

A significant plot characteristic in these films is often a rivalry with other criminals in gangster warfare. These plots include questions to how the criminal is going to apprehended by the law. According to Horatio Alger gangster films are morality tales. They are stories in which the criminal lives in an inverted dream world of success and wealth. Although criminals are doomed to fail and an inevitable death, they are portrayed as the victims of circumstance, because they are often told from the criminals point of view (filmsite.org.).

The characters in gangster films are usually materialistic, street-smart, immoral, meglo-maniacal, and self-destructive. By using a tough cruel faÐ*ade while showing an ambitious desire for success, they rise to power. The criminal is the product of his harsh environment, violent, laconic and tough, but his involvement in crime seems a matter of chance rather than choice. An urban wolf can equally well be killer or detective, warden or prisoner. They all speak the same discursive language (Baxter 7). Crime films are often set in a large, crowded city. Exotic locals for crimes often add an element of adventure and wealth. Writers

dreamed up appropriate gangland jargon for the tales, such as "tommyguns."(Ebscohost)

Film technique of these films showed a more graphic representation of moods and ambiance due to the light and camera effects, as often seen previously in the Expressionist cinema of pre-war Germany. During the end of the thirties, the influx of European cinema technicians, writers and directors into the USA was bringing Hollywood a fresh set of approaches to cinema as a technique and as an art form. (geocities.com/filmlis)

Another influence on gangster films was the French cinema of the thirties. French directors had more freedom and were generally more concerned with the artistic rendition of filming in their scripts (imdb.com). Often they compensated for their lack of financial means by improvisation and creativity. Also, the "contestataire" stand taken by the plots of French films, with the very existential approach of the characters, had a strong influence on the development of gangster film in the USA.. (geocities.com/filmlis)

Crime in America was an important vice, too. Many migrants during this time brought their underworld elements of European cities with them. In 1920 the United States government

introduced prohibition of liquor, the nation's most disastrous social experiment. Gangsters found themselves with the

ingredients to an illegal industry, bootlegging. Already dissatisfied with a lax and cynical government, the public was not incline to obey a puritan injunction to abstain, and welcomed the illegal liquor merchant and secret bar (Baxter 8). All of these elements were a huge factor in the rising of the crime/gangster film.

Murder in gangster films comes easy. Death is usually but the drop of a gun away. Because the gangster is closely associated with the gun, most of the killings in film mobsterland have been done with bullets. Film gangsters don't die in peace with a few exceptions. Gangsters don't get poisoned, nor do they die of old age. They tend to get shot to death in a hail of bullets. (Hossent 133)

Gangsters' molls were also a part of the legend of the gangster movie. These gorgeous dames dangled cigarettes from their sultry lips, chewed gum and drank gin by the bath-tub load. They even, sometimes, got knocked out. Quite often they terrorized their menfolk by throwing plates and hairbrushes this made the gangster's home look like a fairground coconut shy.

Those gangsters' molls were rough, tough and ruthless. (Hossent 121)

The silent era was when the first mark of gangster/crime films began. One of the first was D.W. Griffith's "The Musketeers of Pig Alley (1912) (class notes). Two of the most influential films that helped launch this genre were "Dr. Mabuse (1922) and The Gambler", two of Fritz Lang's films. Dr. Mabuse was a film in which a super crook controlling a vast empire of crime seemed to rob banks and fight law and order more with the intention of destroying Germanic civilization than of making a dishonest mark. (Hossent 142)

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