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  • At first glance this mid-fifties prison potboiler (itself a spin off of a syndicated television series and, prior to that a long-running radio series) seems like just another sub-par crime melodrama replete with every conventional clich√© the genre has to offer. But look again. There's a musty, gritty quality to this film that gets under the skin, offering up a raft of disturbingly unique images and plot strands. At the center of it all is John Omar Pinson, Public Enemy #4 (!) slimily played by B-movie veteran Myron Healy. Pinson is in and out of Oregon prisons, escaping and being caught and sent back a number of times. Along the way he acquires a band of prison cronies who either assist or hinder his progress. Among them is Sam Edwards, a dreary B-actor who plays loser Wayne Long, a two-bit con who worships Pinson and eventually sacrifices his own life in order to make an impression on him. Long's demise in the prison's electric chair (shown in silhouette) is an eerily haunting image. Much of the acting is marginal and the overall production is pretty shoddy, but it contributes to that woozy, middle of the night dream-like quality that only a bona fide B movie can provide. If you're a fan of grungy B- films, and in particular grungy prison films, then Gangbusters just might fill your bill. Me, I'm a big fan of it.
  • Put together from three installments of a TV show, a master escape artist keeps slipping out of prison, keeping the cops busy trying to catch up.

    I figure the movie was stitched together on the heels of the successfully similar Dragnet feature (1954). Here, however the cheapo production values and no-name cast were probably left to remote drive-ins. Still, the combined narrative has lots of action and never drags, even if the story is full of holes. For example, how does Pinson breathe while buried, or how is it the prison guards are consistently such terrible shots. Nonetheless, the unusual central puzzle is an intriguing one that distinguishes the movie as a whole. Then too, Healy's (Pinson) a familiar face from that period and does a good job as the wickedly brilliant escape artist. But what's with the two official prologues with two dull guys saying something or other. I figure that was added on to make the movie look more official, like the currently popular Dragnet series. Anyway, as long as you don't examine the narrative too closely, the movie's a decent time-passer.
  • Spin-off film from the 1952 American TV series of the same name. Mostly an unremarkable tale of a "master" criminal John Omar Pinson (Public Enemy No 4), his many escapes from Oregon State Prison, his return from death, and final downfall. Just what Pinson had done to deserve his 4th place ranking is not made clear - or how such a brilliant criminal mind could get himself re-arrested so easily after each breakout. Possibly worth watching for three reasons. The manner in which our hero extricates himself from the vigilant guards - surely cliched even in 1954 (hiding in a sack and being delivered a saw blade inside a bread roll?). Secondly, the wonderful bewhiskered disguise, complete with small decoy dog, which even Inspector Clouseau would have been embarrassed by. And last of all, one of the first screen sightings of a mobile phone even if it is the size of a small suitcase. Phillip Lord, as the narrator, tries to impart some gravatus by warning us against becoming too fond of this dangerous man and putting forward the case that overcrowding and bad conditions in US penitentiaries were responsible for a spate of breakouts. However, this film has absolutely nothing to do with the last point and we are unlikely to treat Pinson as a hero as he generates no sympathy at all. Terrible writing, appalling acting and a pedestrian plot. However, it did not prevent Myron Healy, who plays Pinson, from continuing a career that started in 1943 and was still going strong when he played a doctor in the dire comedy Little Giants in 1994. Best line? "In my twenty years of police work, it's the strangest thing I ever saw." The detective should get out more.
  • MartinHafer17 December 2013
    I had very low expectations for "Gang Busters". Much of this is because it's available from Something Weird Video and is on the same disc as "Ma Barker's Killer Brood"--a cheesy, low-budget but fun B-movie. Additionally, this film is made up of episodes of the TV show "Gang Busters"--all clear indications that the film will be terrible. Yet, interestingly enough, I thought it was pretty good.

    The film is the career of a criminal named John Omar Pinson. Pinson was NOT an ordinary crook but managed to make it to the FBI's most-wanted list. Additionally, he managed to repeatedly break out of prison in Oregon--mostly because he was so bright (and the guards so dumb). Interestingly, it's all taught almost documentary style with voice-over narration as well as recreations of the exploits of Pinson.

    The overall effect is quite interesting--sort of like a film noir picture merged with a documentary. Not great but very good and a must-see for old time crime film lovers.
  • This format was well worn on TV and the wireless by the time we got to the movie iteration, and so the production is actually quite refined by the standards of the day. This story centres around a serial criminal John Pinson (Myron Healy) who escapes from prison and gets recaptures with relentless regularity - but each time he increases his network of alles who help him continue to escape. The storyline here is much sturdier than many of the genre; it has a rougher edge to it and makes for quite a compelling B-movie. The narration is grating, but essential to keep the plot moving along.