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This film was typical of the B-Movie fare of the late 1950's and early
1960's, spurred by the 1959 TV release of "The Untouchables."
The 1960 film, "The Rise and Fall of Jack Legs Diamond", and the 1961 film "Portrait of a Mobster" were better examples of how these films should and could be made well. B-movies, yes; but there's B and then there's - B made well.
The actor who portrays Pretty Boy Floyd, John Ericsons, was slated for better things, and the studios did try. He was indeed a good journeyman actor but, for some reason, simply did not have the matinée idol gene in him.
There is nothing spectacular going on in this film, but it does move and its easy watching. Its only only standout highlight worth mentioning is a, all too brief but great performance by the late "Munsters" actor, Al Lewis: look for it.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This low budget gangster biopic from the late Fifties is typical of the
pseudo historical films of this type popular then. A few, such as The
Rise and Fall of Legs Diamond and Al Capone, for example, were well
produced, well acted, semi-serious movies that hold up well over the
years. The same cannot be said of this movie.
When I first saw it with a friend years ago, we kept laughing out loud at the many anachronisms and incongruities it contains. That omnipresent Fifties jazz style soundtrack found in so many movies from that period, no matter how inappropriate, plays over the chase scenes. It is as jarringly out of place in the rural Midwestern and Southwestern locales, and the Depression era story, as when similar music is used for the 1959 Jack the Ripper. I thought that the machine guns used by Pretty Boy and his pal looked like World War II German weapons, totally wrong for the time and place.
The movie isn't really all that bad, but there is one sequence that must stand among the greatest unintentionally funny scenes of all time. A prison break has gone drastically wrong, with the criminal to be rescued from the cops accidentally shot by his friends. Later, a tribunal of mobsters holds an inquest to determine what happened. Al Lewis, as the cousin of the dead convict, keeps insisting it was an accident, until someone suggests that he deliberately shot his cousin, for personal reasons. Al Lewis throws a hysterical fit worthy of Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard, shrieking, sobbing, blubbering, getting down on his knees to finally blurt out that it's true, because he hated his cousin so much. He is sentenced to be executed, and Pretty Boy and his friend let go. I could not stop laughing as Al Lewis made the most of his great dramatic opportunity. I would almost recommend the movie just so viewers could watch that one scene.
Again, overall not too bad. There are certainly worse gangster biopics, for example Mad Dog Coll. Talk about bad movies!
Without a doubt one of the worst gangster films ever made. Ranks with
Ma Barker's Killer Brood for total inaccuracy. At least the characters
are close to who they are supposed to be, even if the names are
made-up. Al Ricardo instead of Adam Richetti, Shorty Walters instead of
Bill "The Killer" Miller, The Courtney Brothers instead of the Ash
Brothers, and Machine Gun Manny instead of Verne Miller, to name just a
few. All through the film, Floyd appears to appreciate being called
Pretty Boy, when in reality he hated it.
Probably the silliest scene in the flick is the Union Station massacre. Manny and Floyd blast away with some unrecognizable foreign-made machine guns -----definetely not Tommy Guns-----and kill the Frank Nash character and several cops without shattering the windshield or leaving so much as a single bullet hole in the car. .
I recently paid five bucks for the CD at a going-out-of-business sale. It was barely worth it.
Pretty Boy Floyd is a rather pedestrian and overlong biopic of the famous gangster. Luckily there's an outstanding cast on hand to lend the film some much needed credibility: John Ericson is fine as Pretty Boy, but it's great to see Barry Newman, Peter Falk, and Al 'Elect Me Governor' Lewis playing his various sidekicks. We even get Jason 'Brain That Wouldn't Die' Evers as Floyd's nemesis, the determined local lawman.
considering the budget and casting this is a good effort - I just LOVE the completely out-of-place soundtrack (the jazz score really is quite good in its own right) - you would think they would on occasion use some country music - I know it bears little semblance to the historical Floyd story but kudos for the great cast - T-Bag from Prison Break is definitely channeling Pretty Boy's brother, Curly and Al Lewis is awesome - Ericsson is actually quite good too and doesn't really resort to over-the-top caricatures as one might think - Peter Falk has a nice role too pretty much like his role as Abe Relas in Murder Inc - as Sabre pointed out above, the machine guns look like French MAT49s (not yet available in the 1930s but used by the post-war French army in Indochina and Algeria) - a similar weapon (although with a folding metal stock) was used in The Laughing Policeman to great effect - the cops seem to use Thompsons like you would expect - I think this fits in rather nicely with all the second-tier crime flicks that came out in the last 50s and early 60s
This movie came out in 1959, the same year I was born in Oklahoma. I liked this movie and felt that John Ericson did a decent job playing Pretty Boy, even though he looked more like a Ricky Nelson with a James Dean type of murky frown. Ericson, five years later, would play "Pan" in one of my favorite Tony Randall movies, "The Seven Faces of Dr. Lao". Also, in 1965, he played opposite to Ann Francis in "Honey West". Pretty Boy Floyd can be compared to a modern Jesse James. Their home folks and friends help protect and hid them for law enforcement. Their Robin Hood deeds bought them country folk loyalty and legendary status in their respective areas. The movie didn't display this well. This movie could have been better. It left out so much, example being his relationship to his family. I remember a story where he pretended to whip his son in order to appease his wife. Not once in this movie do you hear the name Melvin Purvis, the head G-man under Hoover at the time. Did Purvis and Floyd hold phone conversations ? or did I get that from another Hollywood movie ? It was never proved that Pretty Boy was involved in the Kansas City Massacre. This movie's reenactment looked more like a large alley than a Union Station parking lot. It was rather weak, but what do you expect from a 1959 flick. The best thing about this movie is seeing Barry Newman (the lawyer in "Petrocelli" - 1974 T.V. series) and Al Lewis (grandpa in the "Munsters" T.V. sitcom) in their first screen appearances. It also has Peter Falk (Columbo) in one of his early performances. I think Al Lewis's performance was the best overall. He was very convincing in playing the unstable bad guy.
The career of notorious 1930's bank robber Pretty Boy Floyd is
recounted in this sleazy production that also manages to unfold in
rather lackluster fashion. Ericson certainly merits the nickname
'Pretty Boy', however his romanticized killer fails to generate an
eye-catching level of viciousness. Thus, the story lacks necessary
spark at the center. Still, the producers do manage a few
compensations. The movie does a pretty good job showing Floyd's
lingering roots in Oklahoma where he was something of a folk hero,
banks being not too popular in the Depression era 30's. The rural
set-ups are also well done showing the shantytown poverty of the time.
However, the rest of the production is threadbare, to say the least.
Then too, poor Joan Harvey (Lil) may look the part of Floyd's squeeze, but her acting skill sort of comes and goes. On the other hand, Carl York as Curly manages to inject some real feeling into an otherwise colorless narrative. Good to see Peter Falk getting his first movie break. Too bad he wasn't given a bigger role and a chance to spice things up. Lives of real gangsters were popular on both TV (The Lawless Years, and The Untouchables) and in a number of movies of the time (Capone, Baby Face Nelson). Unfortunately this minor effort is one of the more forgettable ones.
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