Saturday, February 06, 2010

DILLINGER Sows His Wild Bunch'a Oates

DILLINGER Sows His Wild Bunch’a Oates,
Melvin Purvis Makes War On Him!


Movie Gangster Brings Audiences
Outta The Depps Of Depression,
Overwhelming The Moll!

A review of 1973’s DILLINGER, safe to be Lady In Read!

Don K. Barbecue

Indiana, 1933, the Depps, I SAID depths of the Great Depression that no one who ever lived through it said was so damned great, and I ain't soup kitchn lyin'.

We watch from the viewpoint of a bank teller as this matronly woman goes on and on about, the old bat, how much the bank needs her money and they better treat her right or she’ll take her money somewhere else and wouldn’t they like THAT, and it’s a wonder, times being what they were, somebody doesn’t shoot her right there, let’s be Franklin D.

Finally she gets what she wants, turns, gets blocked by a feller beyond her big behind blocking her way. She shrieks what’s the matter with him, what’s he smiling at, he replies it’s the sight of all that money: “I see money, I smile that way.” He grins her down, she har-umphs as the movie audience wishes he woulda gunned her down.

Right here, minutes in, movie audiences in 1973 were hooked and suckered in as if by a giant Hoover. Didn’t matter if I saw DILLINGER from John Milius over indoors in Coletown at the ole Black Diamond Theater, or down at the Mu-Way Drive-In in Pummeled Dwarf. Joints were always packed for this flick, and Hoover be dammed, even before the next lines of to die for dialogue, audiences were glad they’d vacuum.

Audiences could identify with Warren Oates as DILLINGER, especially the folks who not that many years back had scene him in a certain Peckinpah pic with another bunch of wild guys. Oates would later work for Peckinpah again in the amazing daze of death that is BRING ME THE HEAD OF ALFREDO GARCIA. Oates was a crowd pleaser, one of the movie-go’ers’ “us,” never mind the man had a face like a still friendly hound dawg due any moment to go rabid, snap, crunch, gnaw you’re dead.

So, Oates lays on the charm to the teller, but it doesn’t take long before gun is drawn and he drops his name as John Dillinger.

He lays on more charm, tells everyone about to be robbed “Those few dollars you lose here today, they gonna buy you stories to tell your children and your grandchildren.” Jest in case, though, the Dillster hastens to add that “This could be yer big day. Don’t make it yer last.”

Hold-up proceeds, we cut to credits and scenes of the Depression. You know, poor folk livin' on canned heat, on the Joad again. And by now the folks watching are truly drawn in and ready to get themselves all gangstered up…

And why not? The Depression itself saw the rise of the Warner Brothers gangster flicks, movie machine guns firing on all cylinders so fast and furiously regular they got to be an Ameri-con Bogart form.

The war and noir changed that, but by the ‘50’s the gangsters were back on film, one of the best of the worst being local PA. boy Charles Bronson gone loco as MACHINE GUN KELLY for Roger Corman.

Corman became in no short order a master at showing these thugly mugs as the scum they were. Machine Gun Bronson even had Queen of the “Bees,” okay, WASP WOMAN Susan Cabot, a Corman regular and Inger The Dark her own shelf, as the bad gal tired of Bronson all the time overlookin’ them all, uh, the moll. Cast also included a man named Morey as pre-Dick Van Dyke comic relief, doomed to become one of Kelly’s own forever Amsterdamned.

Movie gangsters sordid went away a bit through the ‘60’s, although t.v. found them anything gunbutt Untouchables. Then came BONNIE & CLYDE to usher in another killer cycle of Beatty-eyed bad guys and fair and Fay gals who wind up Dunaway with. B&C’s finale at the time was a shocker, a bloodbath beyond compare that had movie fans crying for not only B& C, but also earning cries of praise for whoever whoever Penned it.

Okay, all fright, may”B” the godfathers of gore, Dave Friedman and Heap Gorey Lewis, started that gaping hole bloody thing with their cheepo creepos, slay perhaps on BLOOD FEAST. Much as I love howl they meatgrinded them out, perhaps this haunt reely the place to ask when it came to gore and guts and personal parts a-flyin’, who hackually got there Egyptian feast.

Not to “B” … and “C”… outgunned, Roger Corman returned to the form with BLOODY MAMA, starring Shelley Winters as the headette of a family who stayed and slayed together. Shelley was so rough & tough in BM you’d think she had to have worked as a carny Ma Barker.

Corman left Americon, I SAID American-International for 20th, did the best Capone flick ever, THE ST. VALENTINE’S DAY MASSACRE, over which any guy ever bought a gal a fur coat should stand up and Jean Hale praises!

Corman gangsters and gunettes never much went away, whether at New World or Concorde OR even back at 20th for CAPONE.

He also went back to hard times hardcases like the BIG BAD MAMA series w/ Angie Dickinson. She only did two, butt there’s still lotsa us guys wish she’d Wilmake more of ‘em. Like, puh-lease, woman!

Corman various decades after this DILLINGER also produced two Dillinger pix, DILLINGER AND CAPONE and THE LADY IN RED, with RED having a fair amount of skin from Pamela Sue Martin, case it needed that sextra somethin’ to Drew in the crowds…

And Corman’s COCKFIGHTER, aka BORN TO KILL, proved to be one of Warren Oates’ finest hour and a halfs, even if nobody ever warned audiences that what was BORN TO KILL was friggin’ chickens, the shell.

Which brings us back to Warren Oates, John Milius and DILLINGER, I wouldn’t be CONAN ya. Their big D. is narrated by Ben Johnson, king of the cowboy lawmen, star of 1976’s BREAKHEART PASS with Bronson and Jill Ireland unless I’m reely in Erin.

Johnson starred in countless Westerns, gunbutt he was seldom so lowdown and dirty than here as our narrator, F. B. I. man Melvin Purvis.

Seems, as he explains, he has a score to settle with John Dillinger over a caper in Kansas City where Purvis lost men, the worst of it being the death of a feller gave the Purvster a batcha cigars right before Dillinger and his boys blew the guy’s head off. Cuzza that Purvis vows to smoke each and every member of the Dillinger gang and then light up one of those fine ole stogies as he stands over their bullet-ridden, rid of once righteous souls bodies.

You got it, hoss. In other words, he reely aims to have ‘em all friggin’ down, dead and Dutch Mastered!

Besides, even in his MIGHTY JOE YOUNGer days Johnson looked like he didn’t need a gun to kill ya, he could just KONGk ya.

In the true tradition of older gangsteramas, Milius begins the Stock Market crash, car crash carnage, as we’ve scene, not with the nasty stuff but with the gang having fun, cracking funnies so the audience gets further on their side.

Gang pulls up in a run-down middle of nothing, one ole guy propped in his chair outside next to a “gas station.” Trouble is, ain’t much gas at all, and the burg’s bank is no longer open for Dillinger’s business. Or, as one frustrated felon “B”moans, they’re “On a 3-state crime spree and can’t find any banks!” And since they think they’re doing everything right, well, maybe it’s all the government’s vault…

So we get the ever redoubtable Harry Dean Stanton as Homer Van Meter, getting outta the crime spree car and near to getting REPOessed.

Why? No bank, no gas, and all the guys in the car yet are laughing at him, oletimer giving him yer not much of a gangster grief, like when Stanton asks when did the banks close down and Gasless Guy sez, “When they ran outta money, what d’ya think?”

Crooks in car think that’s pretty funny, so Harry D. Meter fires away at anything handy, runs to the getaway vehicle and yells, “Step on it, I got his gumball machine!”

Audiences everywhere laughed so hard at that one it musta been a reel jawbreaker!

Thing is, this is funny NOW. Wait till later, when Harry’s cut down by “g.d….x-pletive depleted….farmers” who don’t even let him a run away leg to Stanton.

Which is one of the joys of gangster flicks. Dillinger’s story is in place in high crime history, only the characters don’t know. These hard times are not our hard times. So, when Oates meets this new woman at a roadhouse, gal named Billie Frechette t. and a.’s played by Michelle Phillips, he asks her what nationality she is, never dreaming how soon they’ll both be politi-killy gore wrecked.

She sez French. D. asks if she, being French, drinks? No, she sez, drinking. Oates gets pissed’ed her than she is. I thought you French didn’t drink, he argues. She sez she’s half, French, the other half’s Indian, and the other half DRINKS. Near 40 years of movie crooks later, such dialogue might oh-pun a case to Sioux. Anyway, she asks him what he does. He sez he robs banks, what do YOU do? She claims to be an entertainer, he doesn’t, uh, buy it, sez “Don’t gimme that dime a dance crap, you’re a whore,” from which we go into a discussion over her not having to be ashamed of it, there was whores before there was bank robbers. Or even bank owners, and as Dillinger will loin layed her, lotsa ‘em even survive operating in the red.

No time Billie’s off with Johnny D. to the gang’s hole-up.

He buns rushes her up to his room, pushes her down on the bed as outside lights flash that both he and his soon to be nude, uh, new lady are both reddy…

Mean slime, we know Purvis is on the prowl, and he is tomb stalking the desolate Depression landscape city and rural, dropping Dillinger left-behinds without much of their permission being arsk-ed.

Oh, and that case of those lethal smokes used to be Phillip, it is no Morris.

It isn’t only Dillinger and Billie begin to mount, so do the casualties amongst their criminal kind. Down in Memphis Purvis fires up and blows away yet another anti-social enemy he doesn’t publike, even as the culprit cries out “Don’t kill me, G-man.”

The Melster does, though, sez over his smoke, “G-man, huh? I like that. Government man. Mr. Hoover’s gonna like that, too.” Huh. Somehow I don’t think Edgar Hoover woulda taken it even further and enjoyed killing someone and then smokin’ a J.

Yeah, the G-men are moving in, closer and soon to be no cigar(s) left.

See, there’s a big shoot ‘em up, Charlie of the gang gets it bad, as in I hope he was Scottish, cuz he gets kilt reel bad.

Middle of the desert Dillinger and Billie bury him in an unmarked no name of a grave, cuz, sez Johhny D., “Charlie Mackley was a well-known man,” with a well-known name like “Butch Cassidy, Sam Bass, Cole Younger, Jesse James,” and folks would be digging him up and selling his bones to tourists, THAT’S why there’s no name, “He’s just an old man, alone, under the ground. Amen.”

Which as slay be, John. And Melvin P. is a-comin’ for Halleju, yeah…

Still as Charlie is and all, remorse is setting in. Dillinger won’t admit it much. He tells Billie he always wanted to be a bank robber as they sit in their car ready to cross the border, make that final break.

But he explains he always wanted, even as a kid, wanted to carry a gun, wear masks and rob banks. Only now it’s HIM’s that wanted. He kinda leaves the decision up to her, life of luxury or what they been doing. Her verdict? If he quit, “What would yer public think?” He laughs, they turn around, head back to their life of crime rather than “live like Pharoahs.” Ya wanna bet that pretty soon Billie will be feelin Egypt her?

It’s caught they soon get...

...and Johnny D.’s off to make his most notorious caper: the break-out from a prison totally surrounded by law and jailhouse odor. But naughty before he gets to give an interview to the enmassed press on how he likes the new President, Social Security not so much. As the guards will find out later, when the bullets fly, what does Dillinger medic care?

You got it, this is when Dillinger musta dreamed of Billie lust night, cuz he pulls a big bust out. With, reely AND for true crime, a gun carved outta soap and blackened with shoe polish. I mean, wotta heel!

Of course, today he’d have to use a gun that’s cell phoney. No soap, and he wouldn’t even have to use Dial!

Better yet, once Dillinger has succeeded in using the joint’s warden as his shield in the getaway car...

...he stops along the way to rob a bank even as the forces of the law are in hot pursuit.

Then he splits the cash with a prison guard he broke out cuz he sympathized with the guy’s reason for being there: he caught his wife with a Bible salesman, no doubt the salesman thinking it was all part of being on the Job.

Plus, the warden gets HIS cut, and everybody pleads “Hard times,” “Yeah, hard times.” Hey, to movie watchers in ’73, many’s the folk then couldn’t afford a vehicle anymore, or even the gas to Carter off with.

After all that jail bait, I SAID biding his time, Warren by now’s feelin’ his Oates, knows where to go to find Billie and have a romantic in her nude. She’s upset, though. Tells him she doesn’t wanna be there when he dies. Won’t happen, he sez, “I may not live forever, but I’d be a damn fool not to try.” She doesn’t buy it. Doesn’t BUY it? What, Dillinger’s got all that hidden away loot and Michelle Phillips can’t for him a bed hot Mama Cass get?

The ole gang gets back, along with Pretty Boy Floyd and Baby Face Nelson.

Nelson’s played by a young Richard Dreyfuss, who soon lets the rest of the gang he doesn’t like to be called that.

One look between him and Oates and you just knew, Black Diamond seated or Mu-Way BACK-seated, that even though the movie was years of floating fears away yet, Dillinger was gonna give Baby Face such a kick in the JAWS.

While doing it Dillinger shouts that he’s immortal, a sure sign the end is near. Baby Face, he only wishes he hadn’t got Johnny D. so AMERICAN GRAFFITI’ed off.

It’s Baby Face not listening to reason, his rage to kill, which finally brings the hammer down, and the gang’s last stand is a shoot-up getaway where some don’t that makes BONNIE & CLYDE look like HAROLD ENMAULED. Married man Geoffrey Lewis, long-time Clint Eastwood movie regular in days to follow, gets mortally wounded, calling for his beloved wife whom he treasures like the day he “Mary!”’ed her.

Pretty Boy learns for reel that the life he’s led makes it “too late for no Bible” just before he’s shot full’a lead. He tells see-gar-crunching Purvis he’s “glad it was you,” although it can be argued that such deathly con-fessions at the wrap up tend to often be cellophaney.

It’s Stanton, though, who steals the last getaway show, from the moment he utters the crowd's always loved it line, “Son of a bitch! Things ain’t workin’ out for me today.”

Up to you to con-tinue, learn if the afore-mentioned “g.d. farmers” haymow him down. And weather they shoot him high or silo.

Johnny D.? Not a word is heard from him after the big shoot-out. We don't even know where he is until future Corman CRAZY MAMA Cloris Leachman appears as her own Big City lady in red.

Cloris tells Purvis over a bowl of popsickles about this client of her establishment who, it being that kind of establishment, lust could be Dillinger. Seems the guy likes the girls who looks like “Indians.” Gee, man, let it up to Purvis if that’s why she’s wearin’ red. Let him decide whether to shout out the Leachman’s name and scare the horses like in YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN, or if it’s a reel neigh-neigh. Being straight and stable, Purvis helps Cloris set themselves a rendevous with Dillinger over a movie about Manhattan to Mel, uh, die for.

You ask me, this version of the Dillinger saga from John Milius and AIP is the best of the bullet-spraying beasts, by firearm!

You’ll “B” surprised here how Frechette it all seems, how…. Whoa! Even as I speak easy, I see on my sound-off t.v. that the real Dillinger’s getaway car just fetched lots of those big buck$ paper things that even in jail would make the Dillster OR Johnny Depp green with penal envy.

Almost 80 years after the events reel or unreal depicted, ever Cole Younger fans still enjoy new versions of the DEPPression’s biggest ruthless outlaw, and the upright G-man who swore to deny him any Bale.


Rob J said...

I saw this movie as a double bill
when I went to Barbados with my father in 1974. The other film was "Cleopatra Jones".

Warren Oates was great as JD, and the film moved at a fearsome pace as it raced to its' inevitable conclusion.

Far better than the disappointing 2009 version with another lead actor with the same initials.

Excellent style of review.

Anonymous said...

Couldn't make heads or tales of what you were saying