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Crime Does Not Pay: The Complete Shorts Collection (1935-1947)

Look who broke out of obscurity jail.

Rod Lott June 25th, 2012

Coming presumably from the deepest, darkest, dankest corner of Warner Archives’ basement, right by the leaky pipe from which hangs an opossum about to give birth, comes a true obscurity: Crime Does Not Pay: The Complete Shorts Collection (1935-1947).


Roughly 20 minutes apiece, give or take, these rare scare films are hosted by a guy (or guys, as the identity changes; one has a lazy eye) introducing himself straight to the camera as only “the MGM reporter.” He interviews presumably real-life experts about criminal activities, and then we’re treated to a lengthy re-enactment of a specific case, which accounts for the bulk of each shot.

Finally, the MGM reporter returns to make us all feel guilty, even though we haven’t done anything. No matter: He just wants to frighten you poopless from ever running afoul of the law.

The works — all 50 on a six-disc set — are dated hoots of over-the-top drama. For example, the bank embezzler of “Buried Loot” doesn’t just cheat his employer out of $200,000, but also suffers facial disfigurement, “the poor sap.” While the authorities often seem outsmarted — "We're certainly up against some clever eggs,” one admits in “A Thrill for Thelma” — they always win. Why? It’s right there in the title, bozo.

I don’t recommend watching more than a couple of these shorts at a time, as a little goes a long way. Some viewers may not realize there are more to be had, as the “Next” option on the menu screens is difficult to see. Whoever designed that is gonna pay! —Rod Lott

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