Wednesday, October 5, 2011

"I knew I'd never take him alive... I didn't try too hard neither."

Yet another half-written blog post I've discovered from a couple of months ago. Figured I might as well post it, because, though it isn't a full review, you should at least consider it a recommendation.

d. John Milius
Starring Ben Johnson, Warren Oates, Harry Dean Stanton, Michelle Phillips, Richard Dreyfuss and Cloris Leachman

John Dillinger (Warren Oates) is a famous bankrobber, working the Midwest, who has formed a super-gang with "Pretty-Boy" Floyd (Steve Kanaly) and "Baby-face" Nelson (Richard Dreyfuss). Melvin Purvis (Ben Johnson) is the FBI agent tasked with taking them all down. Cue bloody shootouts.

... Whoah. This and the Don Siegel-directed Babyface Nelson are my must-see gangster films, so you can imagine my delight when Netflix Streaming added this to the queue. Unfortunately, it was a pan-and-scan version with occasionally poor picture quality. To be fair, for all I know, the DVD might be pan-and-scan. Not a lot of care is taken with AIP re-releases, and I'm sure we might wait in vain for Blu-ray versions of these films.

But even pan-and-scan couldn't sap this film of it's pungent hard-boiled flavor. And the visuals still retain their power. The opening of the film, viewed through a bank-teller's window, where we endure a fussy matron withdrawing her money, only to immediately have Warren Oates introducing himself as John Dillinger and then yelling at the viewer not to try anything foolish, packs a punch. The wit of Oates breaking the fourth wall to kick off the film just adds to the outlaw feel of this film. It's a daring start to a film that wants to prove it can match The Wild Bunch, Bonnie and Clyde and Badlands blow-for-blow.

Dillinger doesn't quite hit that heady goal, but it certainly comes close.