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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
THE KANSAS CITY MASSACRE is an American TV movie directed by that
master of the art form, Dan Curtis. Curtis is best known these days for
his work in the horror and supernatural genre with titles such as
TRILOGY OF TERROR remaining fondly remembered by fans. Despite the
title, this one's something a bit different: a 1930s-era true life
gangster story, with all of the tommy gun action and shoot-outs you
could hope for.
I had no idea that this was a sequel until I saw that MELVIN PURVIS G-MAN was made previously, also featuring Dale Robertson in the lead role and playing the same character. However, the two films are stand alone with separate stories so you won't miss anything by watching this. Many cast members return from the first film in different roles here; I was particularly delighted to see Harris Yulin and Brion James many years before they would go on to big-screen success.
Inevitably the TV movie format makes the story told a little cheap, but I found it still had the ring of authenticity to it. The tale is violent and adult without being explicit and there's plenty if action to bolster the twisty-turny plotting in which the likes of 'Pretty Boy' Floyd, 'Baby Face' Nelson, and John Dillinger attempt to elude the ever-pursuing FBI agents while at the same time running into and falling foul of each other. Matt Clark is a stand-out as the deceitful Verne Miller. THE KANSAS CITY MASSACRE is fast and engaging, made with Curtis's usual class.
Entertaining gangster movie for those who strictly want entertainment. Accuracy and believability is another matter. I doubt seriously that Melvin Purvis was on such a personal friendly basis with Pretty Boy Floyd as depicted in this film. I realize this was a TV movie and probably didn't have all the clout and money backing as a major film might have had, but the major players were good in their roles and all in all would hold the interest of the audience. I noted that an old radio show, The Shadow, was featured as the background of one of the hideout scenes. This was a boo boo on somebody's part because this was supposed to be in 1933 and the Shadow made it's debut in 1940. Sorry guys!
Correction on the Shadow being an incorrect inclusion to the episode.
According to my research the following should be noted to the person from France:
The Shadow debuted on July 31, 1930, as the mysterious narrator of the Street & Smith radio program Detective Story Hour. After gaining popularity among the show's listeners, the narrator became the star of The Shadow Magazine on April 1, 1931; a pulp series created and primarily written by the prolific Gibson.
It then went on to fame and fortune in serials, movies, etc. for years to come. And it also included a stint by Orson Welles as "The Shadow". Many of his episodes are available on cassettes, records and CD's from many sources.
I have not seen this production, but I have recently finished a book which details the events surrounding the "massacre", which took place at Kansas City's Union Station railroad depot. The book is called "The Union Station Massacre" by UMKC journalism professor Robert Unger. The book is a fascinating read of how the FBI, which prior to this incident was an unarmed and ineffective detective bureau, transformed into a nation-wide powerhouse of crime fighting. Any history buffs who want to learn more about the events would be well-served by this volume. It isn't generally available in many public libraries, but academic collections will probably have it, and it is usually available by loan.
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