Combustible Celluloid
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With: John McCann, James A. Marcus, Maggie Weston, H. McCoy, Rockliffe Fellowes, William Sheer, Carl Harbaugh, Anna Q. Nilsson
Written by: Raoul Walsh, Carl Harbaugh, based on a story by Owen Frawley Kildare, Walter C. Hackett
Directed by: Raoul Walsh
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 72
Date: 09/13/1915

Regeneration (1915)

4 Stars (out of 4)

The Birth of a Gangster

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

It's safe to say that director D.W. Griffith ruled the decade between 1910 and 1920. But many of the artists who began their careers working under him were becoming filmmakers in their own right, including actor-turned-director Raoul Walsh. The same year that Griffith's The Birth of a Nation was released, Walsh delivered the hard-biting crime drama Regeneration that must have put his old mentor in his place. Of course, Walsh went on to make dozens of great Hollywood sound-era pictures (The Roaring Twenties, High Sierra, Pursued, White Heat) while Griffith languished in obscurity.

Considered the first gangster movie, Regeneration follows the hard-luck story of Owen Conway (played by different actors at different ages) who, after a rotten childhood, becomes a tough guy of the streets. But he falls for the right girl and tries to go straight, finding only that the old life betrays him. Walsh gave the film a gritty feel simply by shooting much of the action on the New York City streets. It's an extraordinary film (though he has trouble with staircases and differentiating between the floors of a building).

DVD Details: Image Entertainment's DVD makes good use of the best existing source material, though some shots are virtually obliterated by age and wear. The DVD comes with a second feature, Young Romance, to make up for Regeneration's scant 71-minute running time.

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