Tony Camonte (Paul Muni) is the bodyguard of Lou Castillo (Harry J.Vejar), a
big time gangsterboss - but then one day Lou gets bumped off, & the police
have the distinctive idea that Tony did it ... but they can't pin it onto him
& have to let him go ...
... but of course Tony did it, & he & his right hand man Guino
(George Raft) are soon on the payroll of Lou Castillo's arch-rival Johnny Lovo
(Osgood Perkins), where Tony not only rises to second in command in record time
but also eyes Lovo's moll Poppy (Karen Morley), who at first gives him the cool
With brutal methods Tony soon helps Lovo to control all of the southside,
delivering every speakeasy with alcohol, however, Lovo forbids Tony to move in
on the Northside too, since this is the territory of O'Hara & Gaffney
(Boris Karloff), & Lovo doesn't want to risk a gangwar yet. Tony however
soon thinks he has grown too big for Lovo & orders Guino to shoot O'Hara -
which he does -, much to the dismay of Lovo. But Tony has no intention to stop
just there & - in a version of the actual Valentine's Day Massacre - lines
up Northside gangsterbosses in a garage & has them gunned down.
Only Gaffney, who has arrvide late, has missed his appointment with death
... & he soon goes into hiding out of sheer terror - as does Lovo,
realizing the murderous potential his second-in-command has, even on him ...
which leaves Tony plenty of room to move in on Poppy, & this time she
softens up & the 2 soon start an affair.
Tony is soon able to find out & kill Gaffney in a bowling alley, &
it seems he has made it ... but then Lovo finds out about his affair with
Poppy, & out of jealousy sends some out-of-town hitmen to bump Tony off ...
but with some luck Tony survives, & it doesn't take him long to figure Lovo
was behind it all, so he & Guino pay him a visit ... which soon has Lovo
pleading for mercy before he is riddled with bullets.
Now the town belongs to Tony, & with all the competition gone he decides
it's time to take a vacation & he goes to Florida.
Right-hand man Guino has meanwhile started an affair with Tony's sister
Cesca (Ann Dvorak), & they even marry. Upon homecoming though, Tony only
learns that his sister has an affair, goes to her appartment, rings the bell
& shoots the man who opens ... despite it's his best friend Guino. Only
then does he learn that he & his sister were married, & he returns to
his own appartment, deeply disturbed ...
By now though the police have found evidence against him & soon put his
house under siege ... only Cesca seems to somehow be able to sneak in, /&
she threatens her brother with a gun ... when the police starts riddling the
house with bulletholes, & Cesca, in a sudden change of heart, sides with
her brother & helps him in a desperate attempt to shoot himself free ...
but receives a fatal bullet doing so. Tony, realizing he is now all alone,
turns into a wimpering coward & pleads the police for mercy ... but in the
end idies from multiple bullet holes even though ...
This highly fictinalized recounting of the Al Capone-story is a compact
& straightforward gangstersaga that nevertheless offers a host of
multilayered characterisations & cahracter portrayals as well as
directorial finesse that goes beyond just giving a pictorial account of the
screenplay (best exemplified in the scene where Karloff is shot in the bowling
alley, where his death is expressed by a falling pin). In 1983, Brian De Palma
remade this movie as a blunt (if competently made) actioner devoid of all these