This afternoon Hazel and I watched White Heat. It's the first time I've seen it for years, probably more than 10 and possibly closer to 15. I remember seeing it at the NFT in the late 80s. I'm sure that using whatever rating system I used back then it would have scored very highly. It's a classic of course so why wouldn't it? This time around however using my current dlicious/wikipedia rating system I've given it just six out of ten. Somehow this seems to require explanation because that's pretty low by my standards and a fair way short of the 8.1 it gets on IMDB and the 100% on Fresh Tomatoes.



First off Cagney is great. Of course he's great, the role is made for him and he knows it. He owns the picture and most of those six points belong to him... although maybe his totally overpowering the picture is part of what weakens it. A closer look at the relationships around Cody Jarrett would help, particularly those with his mother and his wife. Given how important these relationships are there is very little insight into them. The scenes with his mother are fine but they go nowhere in explaining the man, and her death is treated so carelessly that it only emphasises that the existence of the relationship is considered more important than understanding it.

Virginia Mayo was great in the little she had to do, but again we don't really get to know her.

Tracking the tanker using radio signals was a quaint look at the use of current technology in fighting crime, but looked terribly shoehorned in. I imagine it may have been jaw-dropping in 1949 but it just slowed the plot and actually made the "chase" sequence awfully clunky (as did the use of radio communication in the earlier chase) and removed any edge-of-the-seat excitement that should have been there.

And there's that ending. It is almost a great, great ending until:
"Cody Jarrett, he finally got to the top of the world and it blew right up in his face" that's the way to take the shine of a great ending - I guess it was trying to have the impact that the comparable "beauty killed the beast" speech at the end of King Kong except it really didn't say anything about Cody and just seemed plain silly.



I wondered when I started writing this whether my 6 was really justified, and suspected that I'd be adjustiung upwards by now - but no - I've just convinced myself that I'm right.