“Made it, Ma! Top of the world!”: 1949’s “White Heat” blows up real good!

By on September 2, 2015

In this new supercut, VFX artist Michael A. Martinez re-imagines the explosive ending of the 1949 film noir White Heat — directed by Raoul Walsh and starring James Cagney as Arthur “Cody” Jarrett — which were apparently filmed at the Shell Oil refinery plant at 198th Street and Figueroa in Torrance, California.

While Martinez is primarily known for his work as a visual effects artist on films like The Change-Up (2011), The Tony Blair Witch Project (2000) and Seal Team Six: The Raid on Osama Bin Laden (2012) (as well as the director of photography on Eric Zaldivar‘s Scarlet Worm — Eric is one of our favorite supercut editors), his IMDB stats reveal he’s also worked as an director, actor, writer, and in various other departments. He’s also apparently worked under numerous “alternate names” too, and his star sign is Libra.

Incidentally, White Heat opened in New York on this day — September 2 — in 1949.

We love how Edmond O’Brien’s character (Hank Fallon, also known as Vic Pardo) barely gets to deliver the film’s last lines: “He finally got to the top of the world, and it blew right up in his face.”

A few years ago, Mike D’Angelo, writing for the AV Club (“White Heat has an all-time great ending, even if it seems to come out of nowhere”), found that the oil refinery plant at 198th street and Figueroa musta blown up real good because it doesn’t even exist anymore:

“You can see that they used rear projection for some of the shots featuring Cagney atop the platform — he’s probably on a set, in footage shot at a separate time than the rest of the scene — but otherwise it appears to be the actual refinery, which was owned by Shell Oil. (Poking around online to see whether this refinery still exists, I learn not only that it doesn’t, but that 198th Street itself seems to have disappeared from Torrance, though you can see where it used to be.)”


About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.