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Machine Gun Kelly

USA 1958
produced by
Roger Coeman, Samuel Z. Arkoff (executive), James H. Nicholson (executive) for AIP, El Monte Productions
directed by Roger Corman
starring Charles Bronson, Susan Cabot, Morey Amsterdam, Richard Devon, Jack Lambert, Frank DeKova, Connie Gilchrist, Wally Campo, Barboura Morris, Ted Thorpe, Lori Martin (as Dawn Menzer), George Archambeault, Robert Griffin, Michael Fox, Larry Thor, Shirley Falls, Mitzi McCall, Jay Sayer
written by R.Wright Campbell, music by Gerard Fried

Machine Gun Kelly

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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George Machine Gun Kelly (Charles Bronson) is one of the toughest gangsters there is - not only does he pull incredibly daring heists, he also has an extremely short fuse and doesn't even refrain from beating up his own accomplices should they try to argue with him. And in one particularly gruesome scene, he punishes his accomplice Fandango (Morey Amsterdam), who tried to cheat him out of part of the loot from the latest bank job, by pushing him against the cage of a mountain lion, so the beast tears off Fandango's arm. Only his moll, Flo (Susan Cabot), seems to be able to control him - she actually even thinks she made him -, maybe because she knows his little secret.

... and Kelly's little secret is - he is terribly afraid of death (despite all the people he kills with a gusto), an even panics when he only sees symbols of death, be it the image of a skull or a coffin. So he pretty much bungles up the next bank job of his gang when a coffin is carried across the street and instead of performing his part of the job he runs away, with the result that one of his accomplices is shot dead, another one, Howard (Jack Lambert), can escape but is identified by the police ... and the only way out of that dilemma is that Kelly has to gun down the very man he has let down during the heist ...

Kelly and Flo realize that they has to change his routine, and instead of banks, they are now into kidnappings, starting with little Sherryl (Lori Martin), daughter of steel magnate Vito (Robert Griffin), and holding her for a large ransom. And here's where things go totally haywire: first of all, one of Kelly's accomplices, Apple (Richard Devon), tries to take lead of the gang, and ultimately, Kelly has to shoot him, and then Kelly chooses - of all people - Fandango to pick up the ransom ... and Fandango is not exactly friends with Kelly anymore, and he tips off the police about Kelly.

And in the end, Kelly, as always terribly afraid of death, does not even have the courage to go down with a bang once the police ahs surrounded his hide-out: Instead of shooting his way to gangster heaven, he gives himself up without a fight ...

 

Of course, this little AIP-drive-in flick is nowhere near as lavish as the classic gangster films from the 1930's and 1940's, like Scarface, Little Caesar, Public Enemy No.1 or White Heat, it was clearly made on a tiny budget with a limited number of sets ... that said though, Machine Gun Kelly is quite a remarkable film, as instead of going for straight action (like most other drive-in flicks) it explores the psychology of its main characters (Kelly and Flo that is) and presents Kelly as an internally broken man easily controlled by his moll, who knows which buttons to press - and Charles Bronson's performance as Kelly is nothing short of flawless. Possibly one of Roger Corman's best films.

Recommended.

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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Robots and rats,
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Tales to Chill
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Out now from
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On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide
WHICH IS WORSE!!!

 

A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
starring
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD