Friday, December 06, 2013


Roger Corman, best known as a producer and director of low-budget sci-fi and horror films, got his chance here to do a big studio film. It did not do well commercially or critically, but viewed today, it holds up better than some A-films of the era. In a documentary-style fashion, it tells the story of the infamous slaughter of several members of the Bugs Moran gang as arranged by Al Capone on Valentine’s Day, 1929. The film has almost continual voice-over narration which put off some critics but which, though sometimes unorthodox (the narrator often speaks over on-screen dialogue), does help the viewer keep the large cast of characters straight. Gangsters Capone (Jason Robards) and Moran (Ralph Meeker) are in the middle of a war over selling their illegal alcohol to Chicago's speakeasies, and we are introduced to the two men, their chief assistants, gang members, and various hit men. Robards almost goes over-the-top as Capone, but it could be argued that such a portrayal is the best way to approach such a mythic villain. Meeker, who has less screen time, is more subtle in his performance. Other standouts include George Segal, Bruce Dern, Joseph Campanella, Harold J. Stone, and the handsome Clint Ritchie (pictured). It's fun to see Jack Nicholson and Corman favorite Dick Miller in cameo roles. The sets and cinematography are good; Roger Ebert criticizes the film for feeling not like the real Chicago but like a 30s movie version of 20s Chicago, but that actually makes sense, for most of us know that period more from the movies than from experience or documentary film. There is a room-destroying fight between Segal and his negligee-clad floozy that is almost slapstick in feel but otherwise there is little humor or lightness here. The violence in the film seems like it was influenced by the controversial Bonnie and Clyde, but this was actually released before that one. Worth seeing. [FMC]

No comments: