THE GANGSTER is Manny Farber's fever dream for what B-noir could be if the termites were chewing the scenery in search of pulp opera. The pretension is supplied by director Gordon Wiles, whose first notable project in Hollywood as a young twenty-something was as the "key man" in the art department for Murnau's SUNRISE--which will help explain the orientation here. Wiles is intriguing enough that some enterprising researcher who wants to shake up the torpid recycling that has taken over the NC e-zine would do well to trace his career, which is a kind of primer on the subterranean "art world" that periodically surfaced above the waves of elephantine "A" films and those edgy, rough-hewn "B's" that every so often disgorged a director committed to his compulsions. [It's no accident that Wiles worked for individuals who resemble(d) that description, folks like Albert Lewin and Joseph H. Lewis, who intersect in the 40s right about the time Wiles was given his last chance to direct with THE GANGSTER.]
I think the film as an aberrant form of poetic realism that commits the all-American sin of talking too much, and attempts to transcend its transgressions with operatic visuals that are noir's lone frantic leap into a hellish world evoking Edward Munch.