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After a shoot-out kills five FBI agents in Kansas City the Bureau target John Dillinger as one of the men to hunt down. Waiting for him to break Federal law they sort out several other mobsters, while Dillinger's bank robbing exploits make him something of a folk hero. Escaping from jail he finds Pretty Boy Floyd and Baby Face Nelson have joined the gang and pretty soon he is Public Enemy Number One. Now the G-men really are after him. Written by
Jeremy Perkins <email@example.com>
This picture's cinematographer Jules Brenner has said of this film on his blog about his work on the VariaGallery website: "This was a great film to work on for a lot of reasons, starting with the experience of working for John Milius. He has always been a brilliant and naturally gifted writer, and this was his first effort as director. John deals in images that he visualizes in his mind's eye and I was, as his cinematographer, his instrument to realize them. From the get go, John expressed his vision of the film as the conveyance of the myth of John Dillinger. As is typical of a Milius hero, Dillinger was a larger than life individual who lived his life according to his own instinctive drive and carved out a full chapter in the annals of legend. The visual elements, the colors, compositions and photographic concept of the film was to further the idea of doing a "romance" of a historical figure. I don't believe I've ever worked for any director, before or since, with whom I felt a greater collaborative kinship than I did with John. The photographic paths I was taking at his inspiration were closely allied with my own visual aesthetics. One "effect" or style of photography that I employed was to control, through filtration and lab manipulation, the Kelvin responses of the film medium. My objective was to exploit a range of colors that were at once realistic and surrealistic. It created a picture that wasn't exactly what the mind and brain might render but, rather a "stretched out" palette of color. Not realistic, but I think it acted subliminally to further the romance concept. Some writers have criticized the film for its lack of faithfulness with the known facts, as though the film were intended as a documentary and it somehow fell short. Some call it "over-romanticized", failing to perceive the intentions and the style while so many of its viewers "got it" and went with it. While John had all the facts, known and surmised, his take on the story was, perhaps, to suggest why an audacious bank robber could capture the imagination of the public while his hand was in their pockets. It's no error of history that a myth built up around Dillinger, who was killed at the mere age of 31 years". See more »
Closeup of front page newspaper story heralding Dillinger's capture in Tucson is just a bunch of nonsensical paragraphs repeated over and over. See more »
What chased you out of Cookson Hills, Floyd?
Pretty Boy Floyd:
Well, the Feds were getting to my folks, and it's hard on them. And then damn Bonnie and Clyde ran through there. Weren't safe for no one. Bunch of mad dogs, that's what they were, and I ain't sorry to see them go.
No; small timers get into it, and ruin it for everyone.
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After the closing credits a voice (Paul Frees) can be heard decrying the film and calling it a source of corruption for children. See more »
This is still the definitive biography of John Dillinger on film. I just saw Mann's Public Enemies - this film blows that one away. Forgive me for quoting my own review of Mann's film:
"Milius, taking his cue from "Bonnie And Clyde," from the earlier Lawrence Tierney film "Dillinger," and from the gaudy gangster films of Roger Corman, fashioned a film that was both flashy yet homespun, part unabashed B-movie, part evocation of American Gothic. Even his occasional tinkering with historical accuracy could be forgiven, since it was clear he had a firm grasp on what the Dillinger phenomenon was really all about - 'farm boy makes good by turning bad' is an undeniable folk-theme of American life. And the brilliance of Warren Oates' performance in the Milius film is that Oates plays Dillinger like a runaway farm-boy with a sense of humor and a quick temper, who just happened to rob banks for a living. That's as much as you can give any professional criminal without lying about the nature of crime namely, it's about stealing other peoples' money and hurting many of them in the process."
Other reviewers have remarked this as a B-movie - but it is intentionally so, it never makes any pretense otherwise; and that's important: having decided to make a B-movie leaves Milius with considerable leeway as to how far he wants to push any aspect of the material. So while it's hard to think of any particular dramatic high-point of the film (perhaps the scene where Dillinger and Purvis go to the same restaurant, or the death of Pretty Boy Floyd?), it's much harder to find any moment that really drags the film down - the pacing of the film is that of a B-movie, it moves! There's nothing exceptional about the cinematography or music, or production design; what we're left with are memorable performances by some of the greatest character actors in cinema at the time, and an exciting story with enough savvy to trigger our emotions.
Milius watched the Lawrence Tierney "Dillinger" and learned from it before starting this film; Mann should have watched Milius' film over and over before starting "Public Enemies." In any event, this is still THE Dillinger story, and and an entertaining action film as well.
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