Machine-Gun Kelly, the famous bank robber, seldom without his Thompson machine gun. The story opens with great jazzy music and a murder shown in shadows. His moll is the driving force ... See full summary »
Machine-Gun Kelly, the famous bank robber, seldom without his Thompson machine gun. The story opens with great jazzy music and a murder shown in shadows. His moll is the driving force behind his exploits. He has an exaggerated fear of death and death symbols. The sight of a coffin makes him freeze during a bank job, causing his lieutenant to lose his arm. Finally, the gang kidnaps a little girl along with her nurse and hold them for ransom. Written by
"Pop Gun" Kelly and Morey's best performance in film
Let us get one thing straight. If you watch this movie to understand the story about the kidnapping of Oklahoma oil magnate Charlie Urchell in 1933 by George "Machine Gun" Kelly and his gang, you are going to be disappointed. The Urchell case made headlines across the nation that year because of the size of the ransom demand (over $100,000 - quite a sum in Depression America), and because in 1933 every kidnapping resurrected the hurt felt (at that time) that nobody had been arrested and made to pay for the kidnap murder of Charles Lindbergh Jr. in March 1932. The newly revamped F.B.I. under J. Edgar Hoover went after the kidnappers, and actually captured Kelly and his gang (and Urchell was not hurt). But aside for one moment at the tail end of this movie where an F.B.I. man summarizes Kelly correctly (he calls him "Pop Gun" for his lack of real courage) this film is totally wrong about the story - it basically jettisons it.
That isn't necessarily bad. Hoover and his men had a fairly simple time catching the inept Kelly. Here we are watching the rise and fall of a criminal legend, played well by Charles Bronson, and directed with some restraint by Roger Corman. We see that he is fixated on being a mean, violent man, who is trying to impress his girlfriend Flo (Susan Cabot). In reality Flo was able to manipulate George, and was whatever brains the organization actually had. But the role to watch in this film is that of Morey Amsterdam as Fandango. Amsterdam, a great one liner comic in the Henny Youngman tradition, is best recalled for his regular role as "Buddy Sorrell" in THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW in the 1960s, especially when confronting his bete noir Richard Deacon as producer "Mel Cooley". Here he plays a petty criminal who is injured on the way up by Kelly, and helps bring him down. Given acceptance of Corman's production value limits and the script's, Amsterdam's Fandango is a really vicious character, and a welcome surprise to people who just recall the marvelous comic performer. For him and Bronson's performance I'll give this a "7".
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