Machine-Gun Kelly (1958)

Unrated   |    |  Action, Biography, Crime

Machine-Gun Kelly (1958) Poster

The criminal exploits of Public Enemy number 1, George 'Machine-Gun' Kelly, during the 1930s.


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7 July 2007 | lost-in-limbo
Don't get smart with this hot-head.
George Kelly is a small-time crook looking to make some big newspaper headlines to impress his imposing moll Flo. After one successful bank robbery after another, one turns into a botch job with Kelly's phobia of death leaving on his men dead and the other wanting his blood. After ridding that problem, due to Flo's pressure to do something. She influences him into kidnapping a wealthy businessman's daughter, but this would lead onto their downfall with Kelly's lurking weakness coming through.

Roger Corman does it again. "Machine-Gun Kelly" is another fine example of perfect film-making on a minimal budget and time restraint, where he's still able to deliver a sturdy, brisk and fleshed-out b-gangster film with a professional touch. The picture looked good, and photographer Floyd Crosby's sharp and shadowy handling brought out the film's brooding ambiance. While Gerald Fried's jazzy music score keeps it all in an exciting and saucy mood. Corman's style isn't overly jumpy, but more so tight, tough and namely suggestive in its actions and basic story telling. Actually there's plenty of time and focus on the material, and that of the complex character of Kelly. One of the major curiosities however, would be that of Charles Bronson's sterling performance as George "Machine-Gun" Kelly. For his first lead role he plays it accordingly, with an on edge and moody shade of an infant bully. Equally as impressive was his icy co-star Susan Cabot. Her vividly titular performance as the cheeky, sly broad of Kelly's is dominantly manipulative. The support cast (Morey, Frank De Kova, Jack Lambert, Richard Devon, Connie Gilchrist) added much-welcomed colour and personality. Corman's straight-laced direction is efficiently organised and he brews up a smoky atmosphere with its authentically wishy-washy 1930's settings. R. Wright Campbell's pulp material is loaded with a snappy, economical and highly engaging script and is loosely based on a 1930s gangster. It's actually an innovative little set-up with some effective psychology brushes and a downbeat ending that fits right at home with the central character's ineptness of his reputation. Kelly's character really sticks out a like a sore thumb compared to the rest of the hardened criminal figures. It's all about the power and name one achieves from these acts is what they're after, not just the doe. This what makes Kelly look uncomfortable.

Even with its limitations, it turns out to be a highly entertaining and satisfying low-scale crime caper by Roger Corman.

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