Whoever said crime doesn’t pay must not have been a filmmaker. Stories of prison breaks and chain gangs have long provided directors with spine-tingling material, and now, Film Forum is paying tribute to the best of the genre with The Con Film Festival, a two-week series packed with the most villainous cons, ex-cons, and misfits to ever grace the silver screen. Today is a double feature of James Cagney classics: Raoul Walsh’s 1949 White Heat, in which Cagney plays a maniacal mama’s boy, and Michael Curtiz’s 1938 Angels With Dirty Faces, about a couple of slum kids who grow up to be a criminal and a priest. Tuesday is ladies’ night—as in two Pre-Code films about women behind bars: Howard Bretherton and William Keighley’s Ladies They Talk About, starring Barbara Stanwyck as a wise-cracking moll, and Marion Gering’s Ladies of the Big House. Other highlights from the series of 21 films, which range from 1931 to 2000, include Riot in Cell Block 11, which was shot inside Folsom Prison (May 16), the Paul Newman-–starring chain-gang flick Cool Hand Luke (May 20), and Fritz Lang’s Bonnie and Clyde-inspired drama You Only Live Once (May 21).

May 8-21, 2009