This weekend the movie "Gangster Squad," the latest in a long line of crime dramas set in Los Angeles, hits theaters. Film historian Mark Jordan Legan joins the show to talk about some of his favorite L.A. crime movies.
Mark Jordan Legan recommmends:
Obviously there are dozens upon dozens of really good crime films set in Los Angeles…but what I want to start with is a very underrated film make in 1948:
He Walked By Night:
"He Walked By Night" is a fascinating piece of cinema. It's based on a true story about a cop killer who kept eluding the authorities. The film is shot on location throughout the city and offers this amazing footage of 1940s Los Angeles.
Also this is considered one of the very first police procedurals and some of the opening voice over is a bit dated. The film is shot almost like a documentary and they're proudly showing all these advancements in police work.
One of the film's co-stars was a very young Jack Webb and he became friends with the technical advisor on this film, a police sergeant. The very next year Jack Webb launched the radio show "Dragnet," Then it went on to become his TV smash hit for decades. The film even starts with "This story is true and the names have been changed to protect the innocent,' just the way they would start "Dragnet."
"Crime Wave" is just a crackling good thriller with hard-bitten cops and desperate criminals and it's shot on the streets of Glendale and Los Angeles. It's amazing, the streets of L.A. are almost another character in this story.
The story is very basic, an ex-con is trying to stay straight and he's blackmailed into robbing one more bank with the old gang. There is amazing footage of Union Station, and City Hall and Chinatown. It was a big influence on Stanley Kubrick, who saw this movie and ended up hiring five or six of the actors and technical people from it to make his classic noir, 'The Killing.'
One of the stars is a very young Charles Bronson, and it's so early in his career that in the opening credits he's still billed by his real name Charles Buchinsky.
Who Framed Roger Rabbit:
A lot of people forget that the evil villain, played by Christopher Lloyd, wants to replace the transit trollies and replace them with…freeways. He certainly predicted how beautiful the freeways would be.
Based on the James Ellroy novel, the movie totally captures 1950s Los Angeles as it's being choked by political and police corruption. In fact, just like in "Gangster Squad," Mickey Cohen is an important character in this story as well.
The film's just filled with terrific performances, Russell Crowe, Kevin Spacey, James Cromwell. Throughout the film there's all these nice little things about the history of the city, they show the groundbreaking ceremony for the Santa Monica Freeway, a lot of scenes in the legendary Formosa Cafe which thank goodness is still standing.
In "Gangster Squad," Sean Penn plays Mickey Cohen, but it's a hard act to follow, Harvey Keitel chewed up the scenery as Mickey Cohen in Warren Beatty's 1991 'Bugsy' even earning a best supporting actor nomination.
The Long Goodbye:
To Live and Die in LA:
Kiss Me Deadly: