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The T-Bird Gang, a Fifties masterpiece, is one of my all-time guilty pleasure classics. I watch it at least once a month and have never stopped discovering new aspects of its scope and grandeur. Vic Tayback is outstanding in a minor role.
T-Bird gang is a fun quick one from the 50's, complete with hip talk
and beat music. Despite the title and some descriptions, this is
definitely not a car movie at all, and especially not a hot-rod movie.
The title of the film really just relates to the white T-Bird that
Alex, the brains of the criminal gang, drives and that car is hardly
even in the movie at all! But it's an OK flick about a young man who
infiltrates a local gang to get to the killer of his dad, a cop. There
are some dull sequences where nothing much happens and there are some
pretty girls too. It all comes down to not exactly the ending you
thought would happen, but something similar.
The leader of the gang does a few funny things, such as spill milk on the dress of his "moll" because she was laughing too much, and boss his workers around by giving sudden orders and snapping his fingers. The rest of the cast isn't bad and they probably had a good time making this movie. Definitely a fun way to spend 65 minutes.
****SPOILERS**** 1950's youth movie about murder revenge and
double-crossing that's a few steps above the average 1950's or 60's
"Hollywood youth" films with an undercover bit by Frank Simmons/Minor,
John Brinkley. Who's goes out to break open the Hendricks mob by
getting it caught red-handed by the police in the commission of a
This all starts after Frank's father, a night watchman, was murdered in the robbery of the warehouse that he was guarding, with the police knowing that it was the Hendricks mob who committed the murder but not having any evidence to arrest or convict them.
Frank going all over town trying to find and join the Hendricks mob runs into to it and it's leader Alex Hendricks, Edwin Nelson. That happened when he gets into a fight in a bar after breaking the concentration of a bar patron playing a pinball like bowling game. Impressed by Frank's ability to use his fists Hendricks offers him to join his mob. Even after Frank joined he was set up in a failed robbery of a gas station to see how he'll react under pressure, Frank passed with flying colors.
Hendricks seems out of place with these 1950's teenage or early 20's greasers who he was using to do jobs for him all over town by breaking into warehouses and homes, even with those who lived there asleep, and stealing everything that wasn't tied or nailed down. Raymond, Tony Miller, Hendricks #2 man who did all the dirty for the gang and who killed Frank's father was getting very jealous of Frank because his boss Hendricks was getting to like the up and coming young hoodlum. Raymond felt that he'll be replaced as the #2 man in the Hendrick mob by Frank.
This jealousy on Raymond's part had unknowingly uncovered the fact that Frank was working undercover for the police. Frank, knowing this, is very careful in tipping off the cops when the Hendricks mob was going to pull a new job and found a way to do it without Hendricks and Raymond knowing about it by leaving massages on matchbooks.
With the police setting up a trap for the Hendricks mob at a warehouse after they were tipped off by Frank the entire Hendricks mobs gets arrested but Hendricks and Raymond and Frank get away in Hendricks white T-bird. With Frank's cover blown during the robbery the three are now back to the Hendricks bar hideout. With Frank tied up and Hendricks thinking that Raymond is outside looking out for the police he tells Frank that after Raymond knocks him off he'll have him turned over to the police in order to save the one and only one worth saving in this whole movie as well as the world HIM.
Raymond who just happened to come into the bar and hearing that Hendricks is going to double-cross and sell him out to the cops goes wacko and beats Hendricks to death with a pool stick that he plunges right through his body. Running out of the bar Raymond is shot and killed by the cops as he pulls a knife on them.
Even though the movie "The T-Bird Gang" has a very predictable story and the acting is adequate it did have it's moments and some scenes where very, if not original, innovative. I especially liked Hendricks girlfriend Marla, Pat George, who at first came across as a typical dumb blond but as the movie went on you realized that she was the smartest person in the film. Marla read classical novels like they were comic books and beat the smart and obviously very educated Hendricks in chess every time she played him.
This is without a doubt one of the finest movies I've seen, a real period classic. It's obscure, but well worth the time it would take to find a copy. Vic Tayback is especially good -- in a small role, admittedly, but displaying early hints of the greatness he achieved in later roles.
It is an interesting coincidence that I watched "What Price Crime?"
about a week before watching "T-Bird Gang" because this second movie
turns out to be a remake of the earlier film. "What Price Crime?" is a
dandy low-budget film and in the case of "T-Bird Gang", it's an even
lower budgeted film. And, while this remake isn't bad, the original is
better for several reasons.
"T-Bird Gang" begins with the beating death of a night watchman. The son of the watchman finds him just before he dies and all he can say is that the killers were in a white Ford Thunderbird (also nicknamed a 'T-Bird'). So, this young man decides to try to locate the gang and exact his revenge. However, a level-headed cop discovers the guy's plan and gets him to agree to work with them to bring the gang to justice. However, this gang isn't the trusting sort and it takes him some time to gain their confidenceand the viewer isn't sure if the gang will be stopped before this infiltrator is discovered and liquidated.
Apart from a few small changes, the two plots in the two films are nearly identical. However, "What Price Crime?" is a better film because it is more subtle and at least has a soundtrack that seemed professional. "T-Bird Gang", on the other hand, has one of the crappiest soundtracksoften consisting of someone banging on bongos or a small combo playing free-form jazz. 95% of the folks watching this will probably hate the musicI know I did. However, if you can ignore this and just take the film for what it is (a cheap B-movie), then it's not bad and is a decent time-passer. Not great but enjoyable because the basic plot is still decent.
Before Ed Nelson did a huge volume of TV work, always a reliably good
and recognizable actor, he did b-movies, of which "T-Bird Gang" is one.
He plays the cultured head of a gang of robbers. His muscle is Tony
Miller. The good guy of the movie is John Brinkley. His dad, a night
watchman, has been killed by Miller. He joins the gang in order to trap
the careful Nelson. In one respect, Nelson is not careful. He appears
in a conspicuous white Thunderbird near his gang's robberies. Letting
that pass, this is a pretty good little film that carries on the noir
tradition of undercover operatives who take risks of discovery and have
to get messages to the police. But because of the youth of the gang and
the protagonist and the jazz score, it actually seems more in tune with
the rebel teenage or anti-authority movies that I mentioned in my
review of "The Beatniks" as being an extension of film noir after it
had petered out.
Nelson's character is the most interesting, as he plays chess, listens to classical music and exerts total control over his gang of younger thieves. Miller's character is also of interest, with his killer instinct lurking just below the surface, but held in check by Nelson. Nelson's blonde girl friend makes a mark as a dippy, self-centered but bright blonde who beats Nelson at chess.
The story is not original, but it flows along on the strength of both some suspense and the characterizations. There are a few robberies and some night photography. And as a bonus, there is a jazz score done by Shelly Manne and His Men.
This flick is cool, daddio. I agree with another reviewer that the Shelley Manne bebop score alone makes it worth watching, but there's a lot more. The acting ranges from fascinatingly bad to surprisingly good (well maybe good is an exaggeration; maybe "convincing"?). Good-looking cast. The screenplay isn't half bad. It moves along at a nice pace. Has a noirish quality. The moll's makeup job! The gang leader's "understated alpha male" shtick: he's a total control freak--renames one gang member "boy", god forbid you should make a peep while he's listening to classical music. Also affects a James Cagney-like style of speaking. So much more to savor.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
First off, let me state that this film is okay. I typically love 50s B-
movies of essentially any genera rather they be wonderful examples of
what can be done on a low budget, or complete schlock that is mainly
enjoyable because if its failings. Based on the reviews I had read on
IMDb, I watched T-Bird Gang because I thought it would have been of the
former. I must admit I was a little let down.
The film tells the story of a young man named Frank, (John Brinkley) who becomes an inside man for the police in order to find his father's killer. The young man infiltrates the gang and eventually he succeeds in helping the police. The story has been done before, both poorly and well, here in T-Bird Gang, it's done "okay." Frankly, the story itself is told so quickly the viewer really doesn't have anytime to care about any of the characters involved.
It isn't that the acting is bad, in fact, I found the acting in this film to be rather good. I was even impressed by Coleman Francis' portrayal of a stereotypical overworked police detective, which he plays very convincingly. The problem is, the film just doesn't make me care very much. The viewer isn't given the time to understand what Frank is going through with the murder of his father, and although it is hinted that Frank and the detective have a history with one another, it isn't ever really discussed in depth. In stark contrast to this is the 1959 film "The Bloody Brood." "The Blood Brood," has a very similar story line to T-Bird Gang, but instead the viewer is shown how the characters feels about the people and situations unfolding around them, which makes the viewer care more.
T-Bird Gang gives me enough information to want to care, but it doesn't give me enough of a story to MAKE me care. Recommended, but only to those like me who just love 50s B-Movies.
In a film which features Coleman Francis ("Red Zone Cuba" and "The Beast of Yucca Flats"), I wasn't expecting much. But this little movie really moves. About an hour in length, the film is cut well, and given obvious limited budget, surprisingly succeeds. I like the way they left some of the obvious character clichés at the door. Ed Nelson is a bit over the top, but quite effective in his portrayal as a gang leader who plays chess and listens to classical music. And Raymond, the henchman, isn't glaringly sadistic. The story may be predictable, but the execution is good, and the characterization was refreshing. After ten minutes, I was hooked! Vic Tayback in a cameo just adds to the fun!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
John Brinkley co-writes and stars in this very low-budget crime drama. Brinkley plays Frank Simmons/Frank Minor a teenager, who is still reeling from his policeman father's death. He vows to find who murdered him. Frank goes undercover and joins a gang led by Ed Nelson, who drives a T-Bird to each of the robberies he plans. His number two man is Raymond(Tony Miller), who is suspicious of Frank from the get-go. Frank's cover is blown just as the gang is busted up. Raymond changes his mind about Frank and "takes care" of Nelson for him. Acting is pretty horrible. But this flick is bad enough to get a laugh or two. Also in the cast: Pat George, Coleman Francis and Nola Thorp. Miller is the co-writer and Roger Corman serves as uncredited producer.
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