Review: Dillinger

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Dillinger is a film noir from 1945 based on one of, if not the most famous gangster in American history. This film was released 11 years after John Dillinger’s death and is the first film based on his exploits. Though Dillinger’s likeness appeared as fictional characters a few times before this film, including Humphrey Bogart in High Sierra of which the book by the same name was loosely based on Dillinger. Here is a look at that film:

https://everythingnoir.com/2015/12/30/film-vs-film-high-sierra-vs-i-died-a-thousand-times/

This is a film that Robert Mitchum wanted to star in, but the studio thought it would be a perfect fit for their new talent,  Lawrence Tierney. I’m not sure if this would have been a better film if it starred Mitchum, but it sure was a good fit for Tierney. In only his second credited role, Dillinger launched Tierney’s star.

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This film starts with Dillinger at a bar with a woman. When the bartender will not take his check, Dillinger excuses himself and holds up a store. He doesn’t make it very far before he is arrested. In prison he soon befriends some criminals with a better track record than himself. He is soon released from prison and comes up with a plan to break his new friends out. Once he is successful at this, the gang goes on a bank robbing spree which would capture the American imagination.

This film is only 70 minutes long, so it has left out key elements of this story. Public Enemy from 2009 starring Johnny Depp is probably the film to watch to get a more accurate historical prospective. That said I would say Tierney’s more brutal portrayal of Dillinger doesn’t hint at any sympathy for this criminal.

Look for Edmund Lowe, Marc Lawrence and the always great Elisha Cook Jr. as members of Dillinger’s gang.

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This isn’t the greatest film noir, but is worth watching for Tierney’s performance. You can see a noir great in the making in this film. This was a successful B-noir at the box office as well as being a censored film at the time of its release. In fact it took two years before it was shown in Chicago.

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Article: The Movie Star, the Gangster Boyfriend, and the Daughter With a Knife

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Lana Turner is one of film noir’s favorite femme fatales, but she found herself in a real life film noir in 1958.

Karina Longworth has a great article about Turner’s life and the incident in 1958 that changed Turner’s and her daughter’s lives forever. Here is a link to that great article over at Slate.com:

http://www.slate.com/articles/podcasts/you_must_remember_this/2015/12/you_must_remember_this_lana_turner_cheryl_crane_and_johnny_stompanato.html

Here is a great short documentary from the old television series, Mysteries and Scandals, covering Turner’s life.

 

Article: Born Under A Bad Sign-The Life of Edward Bunker

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So I just started reading Edward Bunker’s book Dog Eat Dog and can’t believe how great it is so far. Look for a book review soon. I already knew a bit about Edward Bunker, but found myself looking for a more information on this man. Most will know him from playing Mr. Blue from Reservoir Dogs. He has appeared in many other films, including Heat, Tango and Cash and Straight Time. He is a writer more then an actor and has written a hand full of novels, an autobiography along with many short stories. 2 of his books have been made into movies with a 3rd being made right now.

Charles Waring has written a great retrospective of Bunker’s life over at Crime Time well worth reading. Here is a link to that retrospective:

http://www.crimetime.co.uk/features/edwardbunker.php

Review: The Rise and Fall of Legs Diamond

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From director Budd Boetticher in 1960 comes the story of real life gangster Legs Diamond. This film is a mix of fact and fiction of the legendary mobster. Legs was an Irish American who was born in Philadelphia. He was known to be a great dancer, hence the nick name Legs. He also had been shot numerous times over the years only to live to tell the tale. He may have also got the Legs nickname for being able to outrun assassination attempts. He was a womanizer and willing to do whatever it took to get ahead.

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This film covers all the highlights talked about above about Legs. Legs is played by Ray Danton for this film. It opens with Legs and his sickly brother played by Warren Oates getting caught in a drive-by shooting. This gives Legs the idea to steal a necklace out of a jewelry store near the shooting. He quickly picks up a dance instructor played by Karen Steele to be his alibi. He takes her to a movie and excuses himself. While he is out he uses the theater’s skylight to get into the store and steal the necklace. This opening shows Legs and his brother as small time crooks who are just trying to get by.

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Legs goes to jail, but convinces the dance instructor to get him out by marrying him and traveling as a dance duo. Legs soon sees Gangster Arnold Rothstein and does everything he can to get into his inner circle. From here Legs uses his cunning, toughness and brutality to get to the top of the mob world. Will he get to the top? Will somebody take him down? Will Legs ever be happy?

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Legs makes for a unlikable lead character with little to no redeemable qualities. With all this said we still root for him through out the film. A decent anti-hero that most will enjoy watching.

This film rode the coattails of other true crime drama’s about gangster that became popular in the early 1960’s. The Untouchables television series may have been the catalyst for this explosion of popularity. Legs did appear as a a character on that series as well as the television series The Lawless Years. This film was also adapted for Broadway in the late 1980’s.

Film noir buffs will enjoy this film as well as Mobster history fans. It is well directed and well acted, though we have seen this basic plot line many times in pre-noir gangster films, I guess it is true that history repeats itself.

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Review: Cult Classic-The Town That Dreaded Sundown

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This 1976 movie The Town That Dreaded Sundown is a film about a serial killer that terrorized the town of Texarkana.  This is based on a true story and was a series of crimes that where never solved.  I can’t help but see many similarities between this case and movie to the case and movie of Zodiac.  I reviewed Zodiac here:

https://everythingnoir.com/2015/02/26/re-watching-zodiac/

This film is not the best acted, minus a few good performances from Ben Johnson and Andrew Prine.

This film has a cult following, usually among horror fans, and you can’t help but think this film may have been made to cash in on the Texas Chainsaw Massacre hype that came out 2 years before.  Though there is some terrifying scenes in this, the overall tone is more of a serial killer hunted by our main characters of detectives and a famous Texas Ranger.  There is also some comic moments, these didn’t really work for me and I feel took away from the movie.  Most of these comedic scenes come from the director himself, Charles B. Pierce that also plays the bumbling rookie “Spark plug.”

The story starts out with a couple out on lover’s lane who are attacked by a masked man.  Then a few weeks later a similar crime is committed, bringing the town to a panic.  They bring in a Texas Ranger to help with the case and our story continues from there.

Though the film is based on real events, it does take many liberties with the story.  None of the murders or crime scenes are very accurate, and the few close run ins between the law and the phantom killer never happened.  The number of crimes and basic time frame is fairly accurate.  To this day, the crimes have never been solved.

This has become a cult classic over the years and is looked at as one of the early slasher movies that would start a trend continued by Halloween and Friday the 13th.  It also was released on VHS back in the mid 80’s and was not put out on DVD until 2013, making it a hard film to find and watch.  This seemed to give it more cult status.

There is also a remake/sequel that was recently made and I have not seen it.  It looks like that film is more of a straight up horror movie.

The film is a slightly above average drive-in movie from the 70’s and is worth watching if you are a fan of slasher movies or of 70’s horror.  I think it will appeal to those who love true crime stories as well.  Though it does have some noir elements, like the voice over docudrama style and it takes place soon after World War II in the 1940’s, I don’t think hardcore film noir fans will like it, especially if they are expecting a traditional neo-noir.  Personally I felt it was more a cheap neo-noir then it is a horror movie and is something different to watch on a boring Sunday afternoon.