Tuesday, 30 October 2007


This was Roger Corman;s first venture into the world of big budgets (well, big for him) and the original news releases for the movie announced Marlon Brando for the role of Al Capone. With THE GODFATHER just around the corner this was probably a wise decision by Brando, although one can't hyelp but think that he would have improved Corman's film immeasureably.
Not that it is bad. In fact it is often very good indeed with some impressive set pieces and a fun cast list that includes many of the Corman stock company including Bruce Dern, Dick Miller, Leo Gordon, Barboura Morris and (if you don't blink) Jack Nicholson. Corman, working from a script by Howard Browne, takes the approach of TV's THE UNTOUCHABLES by having a narration that sets time and place and gives us biographical information about the various characters. The opening with Barboura Morris hearing a strange noise and wandering out into the snow to find a garage full of dead people down the block is great and movie fans will have a ball trying to count how many scenes Corman rips off from William Wellman's 1931 THE PUBLIC ENEMY - most obvious is the scene where George Segal terrorizes a bar owner into changing his beer supplier, it's a straight steal of the similar scene in the Wellman movie. But the films weakness comes from the miscasting and/or overacting of its two leads, Jason Robards and George Segal. Robards is both far to slim and old to be the Al Capone of 1929 and his scowling, smirking and grimacing become more tedious with each viewing. A few years later Corman would produce another Howard Browne script called CAPONE using footage from this film and featuring Ben Gazzara as a much more believable scarface (although the film itself was inferior to the one reviewed here). Segal looks like he is enjoying himself immensely as killer Pete Gusenberg but, as with Robards, his mugging goes way over the top, especially compared to the general underplaying of the rest of the cast. But there is a lot to enjoy here nonetheless and if you are a Corman fan anyway......Rating ***

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