From The Warner Archive: Crime Does Not Pay – The Complete Shorts Collection (1935-1947)
Prior to the Warner Archive’s releases of this collection earlier this month, I had actually never heard of these MGM-produced shorts. I have now watched all fifty of the Crime Does Not Pay shorts, and I must say I kind of really loved them. You could argue that something like these shorts is what led to the original crime procedurals like Dragnet, but also, since they are told mostly from the point of view of the criminals, something like Law and Order: Criminal Intent. If you love those shows, you will love these shorts.
Each short is preceded by an introduction by the “MGM Crime Reporter” and often a consultant with an “expert” on whatever crime the short showcases. I must say, I find these intros quite delightful.
The very first short, entitled Buried Loot, stars one of my favorite actors in one of his earliest roles: Robert Taylor!
When he first showed up, I was sure I recognized him, but the camera started so far away. Then they zoomed in and I was like YES. YES IT IS.
This short was released in 1935, the same year Taylor gave a wonderful supporting performance in Broadway Melody of 1936 and a year before his breakthrough lead opposite Great Garbo in Camille.Taylor demonstrates that he is an actor to watch and his immense talent is palpable even in this short. I don’t want to spoil anything, but damn the end of this short made me go “NOOOOOOOOO!” My poor baby Taylor.
While some shorts are better than others, there is some top-notch storytelling, acting and film techniques found throughout this collection. I particularly liked the short entitled A Thrill For Thelma.
Up-and-coming directors during the studio system cut their teeth making shorts, and two directors did so with shorts in this series: Fred Zinnemann (High Noon, From Here To Eternity) and Jacques Tourneur (Cat People, Out of the Past).
I was also a big fan of the installment entitled Drunk Driving. Maybe that’s because it was about a guy who drank too much bourbon and I was drinking bourbon while watching it.
Lastly, I wanted to mention Dorothy Adams, one of my favorite character actresses, who shows up in two of the later installments: Dark Shadows and Phantoms, Inc.
Basically, this is a must-own for fans of classic crimes films, modern crime films and maybe just about everyone. It is highly entertaining from start to finish. And each short is only twenty minutes, so you can stretch it over weeks if you want to; you don’t have to watch it all over four days like I did.
Disclaimer: This review is based on review discs given to me by the Warner Archive, though the opinions are all my own.