Gangster films as a genre
For this exercise, I have opted to take an in depth look at a particular genre, this genre being gangster films. In order to see how a film from this genre fits into the category of “gangster” I have also opted to study a film called “The Untouchables”. By doing this I will be able to look at characteristics that have put this film in the gangster genre and characteristics that do not belong so much to the said genre.
Firstly, when we think of gangster films we think of hard-hitting crime drama’s. This is most often true, but as with all genres, there are always anomalies. For example, the film “Bugsy Malone”, has all the stereotypical features of a gangster film but is in fact a comedic musical. The same goes for the film I have chosen to study. Although it is considered a gangster film it also falls under the sub-genre of Action.
We also tend to think of gangster films in a certain era, this usually being the 1920’s – 1950’s. This tends to be true, as this was the pinnacle of the gangster period and organised crime in general. There then seemed to be a hiatus in criminal activity between the 1950’s and late 1970’s, when a new wave of law-breaking began in the casino’s
The music is very of the time and is in no way anachronistic. For further retribution, the infiltrator then paints the words "TOUCHABLE" in the victims blood on the elevator wall. Unlike many other films it has a long opening credits, with sharp music being played in the background. However these were not only wielded by the gangsters but also the treasury officers or G-men. It includes most of the stated features of a gangster film and uses them very well and accurately. If a gangster wanted to wreak vindication (if that is possible) on a police officer or detective that had something on him, they would most likely get his family as a way of getting him. The style of the film is very dark, almost noir at some points, but not so much as its predecessors (see Godfather). However this is highly ironic, because Capone is not crying at the news of Malone"tms death but at the music at the opera. We could imagine living in the gangster"tms shoes but once shown the violence they par take in, in their everyday job, we reconsider. The iconic image in this film is the Tommy gun and the lesser used shotgun. There is also a trend that is vital to the setting of gangster films. There is a near constant play of jazz and blues, which synchronises with the film very well. We are shown the extent of Al Capone"tms power (or the states corruption, probably a combination of the two) when he infiltrates the police force to kill an informant and two police officers. Iconography in the film I have studied, "The Untouchables", is extremely typical. There has yet to be made, a gangster film that is set outside of the twentieth century.