Walter Huston - Capt. Jim Fitzpatrick
Jean Harlow - Daisy Stevens (Mildred)
Wallace Ford - Det. Ed Fitzpatrick
Jean Hersholt - Samuel 'Sam' Belmonte
Dorothy Peterson - Mary Fitzpatrick
J. Carrol Naish - Pietro Cholo
Charles Brabin - Director
Hunt Stromberg - Producer
Ben Hecht - Screenwriter
Norbert Brodine - Cinematographer
W.R. Burnett - Original Story
Arnheim / Moret - Music
Based on a story by W.R. Burnett, this outing has a gritty look surprising in an MGM film, mostly thanks to Norbert Brodine's camerawork. Prefaced by Herbert Hoover's call for the glorification of the policeman rather than the gangster, The Beast of the City is in effect a follow-up to The Secret Six (1931) and its espousal of vigilantism.
The film's attitudes are amply clear from the outset as Walter Huston's ostentatiously honest cop, hounding a greasy gang boss (Jean Hersholt), finds himself frustrated at every turn by shyster lawyers and bribed officials. In this the film prefigures the neo-vigilante films of the seventies, such as Magnum Force (1973). Transferred on the grounds of excessive zeal by his corrupt superior, Huston through his integrity soon is promoted to chief in his new precinct. But meanwhile the corruption has spread (with the police even subjected to booing as they raid a speakeasy), finally tainting Huston's younger brother (Wallace Ford), also a policeman, who is seduced by Hersholt's mistress (Jean Harlow) into conniving at a robbery.
Officially helpless, Huston decides to take the law into his own hands, and with 12 like-minded colleagues--13 when they are joined by a repentant Ford--he leads a kamakaze assault on the gang in their nightclub headquarters. Sometimes risible, not least in its choice of 12 disciples, the film builds to an undeniably gripping climax: the astonishingly violent raid in which cops, gangsters and Harlow are all wiped out (J. Carrol Naish even drooling blood from his mouth as he expires). Ironically, though distinctly excessive by the standards set in Little Caesar (1930) and The Public Enemy (1931), The Beast of the City was enthusiastically endorsed by the Legion of Decency.
--PHIL HARDY, from The Gangster
Film Encyclopedia, 2001.
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