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Author Topic: Dillinger (1973) (Gangster Flick)  (Read 17537 times)
cigar joe
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« Reply #30 on: August 17, 2009, 04:01:29 PM »

Its definitely worth re-watching, every time I do I up my estimate comparably to what passes for 90% of films these days:

Any way here is the last of my screen caps of another of my favorites.

Here is one of the opening sequences of the film after the credits the gang pulls into a hard hit depression town. The bank they were going to knock over is closed &  boarded up, one of the gang mentions that it was a thriving town in 1925 or so. They stop at a filling station an old codger is seated out front. Homer Van Meter (Stanton) hops out and tops off the radiator with water.



Homer questions the station attendant about when the bank shut down. Attendant doesn't answer at first,  Homer asks again and Attendant says "I heard you the first time " after a funny exchange attendant answers "when they ran out of money"



Homer tells the attendant to fill up the car the attendant tells Homer "to fill it yourself".  Homer pulls out his revolver and the attendant in answer spits into a spitoon.



Harry Pierpont (Geoffrey Lewis) says "what you gonna do now Homer?'  flustered Homer hesitates, Harry then says "give him some money and lets get out of here" Homer reaches into his pocket and throws money at the attendant. Another gang member says from inside the car "what you giving him money for". Again Flustered Homer shoots the gumball machine and some of the oil cans and the plate glass window.



Homer jumps into the suicide door and shouts "lets get out of here I got his gumball machine".



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« Reply #31 on: August 17, 2009, 04:43:14 PM »

I have to say that scene is really great, possibly the only part I truly enjoyed. Afro

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« Reply #32 on: August 17, 2009, 06:29:14 PM »

I have to say that scene is really great, possibly the only part I truly enjoyed. Afro

It grows on you with repeated viewings  Afro

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« Reply #33 on: August 18, 2009, 06:05:51 PM »

I should be getting this film in the mail tomorrow. If this isn't the best damned movie ever, CJ, there'll be hell to pay.

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« Reply #34 on: August 18, 2009, 06:12:43 PM »

Its way more entertaining than PE, don't let the inaccuracies get in the way, remember its the Myth and Legend rather than the reality which PE took liberties with also.

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« Reply #35 on: August 18, 2009, 06:19:59 PM »

Hey, I hope I like it. I like some of Milius's stuff and love the cast. I just wish I'd gotten to see it before Public Enemies.

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« Reply #36 on: August 18, 2009, 06:21:06 PM »


That's Roy Jenson on the right, yes? He gives Ben a pretty good run for his money in the cool guy character actor department.

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« Reply #37 on: August 19, 2009, 03:44:28 AM »

Steve Kanaly is also in it as Pretty Boy Floyd and he's very good.

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« Reply #38 on: August 19, 2009, 08:35:59 AM »

Kanaly is (or was) a pretty good actor, yet his career seemed to die after he was on Dallas. Choice (I know he's also an artist) or just not able to get parts?

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« Reply #39 on: August 19, 2009, 01:19:40 PM »

Just got done watching this (finally) so here's some hastily-typed thoughts.

My take is pretty mixed on the whole. There's a lot of good but also a decent amount of bad throughout.

The movie starts with a cool opening and I like the gumball scene so praised by CJ. At the very least I appreciate the film for giving the viewer some background info on the Kansas City Massacre and such (completely lacking in Public Enemies), and it does a much better job of capturing the Depression and popular support for Dillinger than Mann's film, which asserts Dillinger is popular and lets it be so.

The story however plods for most of the first hour. Purvis is by far the more interesting character of the two leads and quite frankly, Dillinger's scenes seem largely in the way. Oates' performance is good (not great) but I don't think Milius does a good enough job developing Dillinger's character; quite frankly, I found his gang mates more interesting in this film. Perhaps for this reason, I thought the movie really took off after Dillinger's jailbreak with the "Supergang"'s crime spree and Purvis in hot pursuit. This is a complete mirror of Public Enemies, where Dillinger is a fairly interesting character but no one else gets enough screen time to make any impression. If Milius had done a better job with his nominal protagonist he might have made a truly great film. As it was, I thought Ben Johnson and Dillinger's gang mates (particularly Harry Dean Stanton and Steve Kanaly) steal the film from Oates, which is only a bad thing considering the film is called Dillinger.

Also the. movie very much looked like the cheap movie it was. I know it was an AIP production so I won't be too critical but there's very little variance in locations, it looks like all the scenes were shot on the same farm in Oklahoma during the fall (even though most of the film's key events occurred in summertime). Also, the bit actors and extras are lousy actors - particularly the caricature Tucson Policemen -
another sign of a low budget. Public Enemies certainly looks a lot better, shaky cam and all; Milius uses a good amount of handheld set-ups and no better than Mann does.

Another area where Dillinger is really lacking is the romance.  I didn't much like the hackneyed soap opera romance in Public Enemies but it was miles better than what's here. I hate the way their love story "develops" - Dillinger kidnaps Billie, practically rapes her, and suddenly she's in love with him? I don't care what planet you're on, that's pretty darn misogynistic, and it really put me off. Besides that, Michelle Phillips is a lousy actress and she has no chemistry with Oates. Both films probably focus too much on the love story, but PE's is less obnoxious and disturbing to my way of thinking.

I'm not going to comment on historical accuracy for obvious reasons. Suffice it to say, the HUGE errors here are less glaring than in Public Enemies, which has pretensions to realism. I could take the film as primarily a work of fiction and I don't really care about "Super Purvis" or chronology of deaths.

The movie's strongest sequence is the whole Little Bohemia part of the film, from the shootout to the gang's escape and eventual deaths. Twenty minutes of brilliance by Milius - the pacing is perfect, giving each of the gang members their own unique death scene, the action well-staged if a bit over-the-top (Floyd chucking grenades at the G-Men kinda threw me off), the acting and writing top-notch - everything clicks, and this sequence easily surpasses everything in Mann's film aside from the shooting of Dillinger. If the rest of the film was on this level I'd agree with CJ's rating whole-heartedly.

I'm not sure what to rate it rate now - I'm leaning towards a 7 but an 8 is possible given the positives noted above. Slightly better than Public Enemies, but with its own set of flaws. Unless the TV movie with Mark Harmon is an overlooked masterpiece, I'd say the definitive Dillinger film still needs to be made.

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« Reply #40 on: August 19, 2009, 01:43:05 PM »

You made some good points, Groggy. Taking them in consideration I think an 8/10 would be too high, 7/10 maybe about right for gangster fans. I gave it 5/10 but as I said, there really aren't many pure gangsta flicks that I can digest.

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« Reply #41 on: August 19, 2009, 02:42:48 PM »

Full-length review (though not significantly longer than the above). I hope CJ doesn't mind my using one of his screencaps for my blog post.

Quote
Today I finally got around to seeing John Milius's Dillinger (1973), after months of futile attempts to see it. After seeing Public Enemies and the Godawful B-movie with Lawrence Tierney this summer, I was hoping that Milius would deliver a great take on John Dillinger, Melvin Purvis and their exciting lives, times and associates. Milius's film (his first theatrical effort) is a fairly entertaining action movie, but it's no masterpiece; it may surpass Michael Mann's recent effort in some ways, but it's got its own myriad flaws to compensate.

John Dillinger (Warren Oates) is a charismatic outlaw who becomes a folk hero to Americans during the Great Depression. With his gang of crooks (Harry Dean Stanton, Geoffrey Lewis, Richard Dreyfuss, Steve Kanaly) he sticks up an series of banks and makes a name for himself - also romancing Billie Frechette (Michelle Phillips) along the way. Hot on his tail is FBI Agent Melvin Purvis (Ben Johnson), a tough, old-school lawman seeking vengeance for the deaths of his agents in the Kansas City Massacre - a crime committed by one of Dillinger's men, Pretty Boy Floyd (Kanaly). Purvis's men gradually decimate the public enemies, while both men seem as interested in their public image as succeeding at their jobs.

Milius's film is a strictly mythical take on the Dillinger saga. Unlike Public Enemies, which went out of its way to appear accurate (in spite of many egregious flaws), Dillinger is , and as such mostly succeeds. It's basically a B-movie crime flick (produced by AIP), liberally crossing elements of The Wild Bunch and Bonnie and Clyde with a hint of John Ford. The movie does a much better job of establishing the film's historical background than Mann's film, and gives a real sense of the Depression and Dillinger's popularity with the masses. The movie doesn't match Mann for the period details, costumes or historical accuracy, but it makes up for it with an authentic, gritty feel. For this, Milius is to be commended. However, the movie has its own failings distinct from Mann's big-budget extravaganza.

One of the movie's biggest question marks is its protagonist. Warren Oates does a fine job as Dillinger but the film doesn't give him a lot to work with; he's basically a loud, violent egomaniac with few redeeming features. We do see that people love him, but unlike Johnny Depp's portrayal, he's not really likeable and it's hard to see what the public saw in him, and compared to his colorful supporting cast, Oates' Dillinger is not particularly compelling. This is a mirror image of the Mann film, where Dillinger is an interesting character but his supporting cast are interchangable goons and G-Men. This might not be a problem if this were meant as an ensemble crime flick, but as the film's ostensible focus is on Dillinger it's a noteable flaw. Perhaps for this reason (and the fact that Dillinger largely disappears after Little Bohemia), the final showdown outside the Biograph Theater doesn't work; there isn't a lot of tension or suspense due to sloppy build-up.

Another major flaw is the movie's romance, which embraces the old sexist gangster moll stereotypes and makes them even more repulsive. Here Dillinger kidnaps Billie (twice!), practically rapes her, and then, without any further interaction, the two are hopelessly in love? I don't care who you are, that's pretty blatant misogyny, and it lowered my respect for Milius a good deal. It doesn't help that Michelle Phillips, pretty as she is, is an atrocious actress, and she and Oates have little or no chemistry. I didn't care much for Public Enemies' hackneyed soap opera romance either, but at least it's not as repugnant as Milius's version.

Still, Dillinger is a generally entertaining movie by its own standards. The production values are often shoddy due to budget, but Milius shows a strong flair for direction throughout; he stages action sequences with bloody aplomb that Peckinpah would envy, with a generally good pace and a strong, well-written script. In particular, the film has one absolutely brilliant sequence - the Little Bohemia shootout, and the lengthy scenes of Dillinger's gang attempting to escape the FBI dragnet. This sequence is near-perfect - well-staged if over-the-top action, brisk, engrossing pacing, pitch-perfect acting and writing - and if Milius had been able to match the brilliance of those twenty minutes, we might well have a masterpiece on our hands. Fortunately, he would show a much firmer hand on his next picture, The Wind and the Lion, even if that film's ludicrous climax lets it down a bit.

One area where the film excells is its supporting cast. Though the movie, it vividly portrays Dillinger's gang, not as interchangable supporting thugs and bullet fodder, but as distinct criminals with their own personalities and quirks. The portrayal of Purvis as a kickass super G-Man is at odds with the historical record, but it certainly works for the story, and Purvis emerges as the more interesting of the two protagonists. Again, this is perhaps detrimental to the portrayal of Dillinger, but on the other hand it helps involve the audience in the film and its characters; all of Dillinger's sidekicks get their own distinct death scenes, and the audience feels for them when they die - something Mann was unable to achieve.

The film's cast is mostly excellent, aside from Phillips. Warren Oates is a fine Dillinger although as mentioned above he's hampered by the script. Ben Johnson steals the movie with a fine performance; he's a no-nonsense, old-school tough guy and Johnson plays the role to the hilt. Harry Dean Stanton and Steve Kanaly are standouts among Dillinger's co-horts, though Richard Dreyfuss is perhaps a bit too over-the-top as Baby Face Nelson. Other roles are well-handled by dependable veteran talent: Cloris Leachman, Roy Jenson, Geoffrey Lewis, Frank McRae.

Dillinger is a good, entertaining gangster flick that occasionally comes close to greatness, but never quite reaches it. It may be slightly more entertaining than Public Enemies but is no closer to masterpiece status. Unless the Mark Harmon TV flick from the early '90s is an overlooked gem, I'd say that the definitive Dillinger movie has yet to be made.

Rating: 7/10 - Recommended

http://nothingiswrittenfilm.blogspot.com/2009/08/dillinger.html

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« Reply #42 on: August 19, 2009, 07:04:48 PM »

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As it was, I thought Ben Johnson and Dillinger's gang mates (particularly Harry Dean Stanton and Steve Kanaly) steal the film from Oates, which is only a bad thing considering the film is called Dillinger.
So if the film had been called something else--say, "Public Enemies"--you would have enjoyed it more?

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« Reply #43 on: August 19, 2009, 08:49:50 PM »

No problem with the screen caps Grogy,  I would suggest that you watch it a few more times though, it grows on you, but not right away, at least that was the case for me. I felt the same way initially but repeated viewings over a few months upped my estimate.

There are not that many films in this Mid West non city/Gangster sub genre all I can think of are, Bonnie & Clyde, Dillinger 1973, Machine Gun Kelly 1958, Big Bad Momma (1973), Bloody Mama 1970, Ma Barker's Killer Brood (1960), Guns Don't Argue(1958), Public Enemies (2009) and maybe Paper Moon (con artists though)

I think I stated that this was Ben Johnson's Lee Van Cleef/Mortimer moment similarly practically stealing the film like Van Cleef did from Eastwood in For A Few Dollars More.

« Last Edit: August 19, 2009, 08:52:58 PM by cigar joe » Logged

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« Reply #44 on: August 20, 2009, 05:55:19 AM »

Quote
I'd say that the definitive Dillinger movie has yet to be made.

The problem is inherent with the facts, there really is no way to have a typical protagonist/antagonist story using Dillinger as a subject, it was him against the system of law enforcement figures and entities.

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