A Movie A Day: DILLINGER (1945) You talk too much, you use a gun too much and now you’re thinking too much!
Published at: Sept. 27, 2008, 10 p.m. CST by quint
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with today’s installment of A Movie A Day.
[For those now joining us, A Movie A Day is my attempt at filling in gaps in my film knowledge. My DVD collection is thousands strong, many of them films I haven’t seen yet, but picked up as I scoured used DVD stores. Each day I’ll pull a previously unseen film from my collection or from my DVR and discuss it here. Each movie will have some sort of connection to the one before it, be it cast or crew member.]
Today we follow Elisha Cook Jr. over to the 1945 Gangster Noir DILLINGER, the film that introduced Lawrence Tierney to the world in the title role… or at least that’s what the poster says. We’ve already had an earlier movie featuring Tierney on this list, the Val Lewton produced flick THE GHOST SHIP from 1943. There are a few uncredited performances and smaller roles prior to this film, but I can see why the producers wanted to sell a big new star smashing onto the scene.
Tierney eats this role up. He’s stoney, mean-lookin’… definitely not someone to fuck with as a few decidedly unlucky bastards find out during the 70 minute runtime of this flick.
I’m sure most of you know the John Dillinger story by now… there have been a ton of movies made about the man. Prior to this film I had seen John Millius’ 1973 DILLINGER starring Warren Oates in the lead role.
Even if you don’t remember the details I’m sure most of you guys remember he was the one betrayed by his goil, wearing a red dress at the movie theater.
Directed by Max Nosseck and featuring some very pretty black and white noir photography by Jackson Rose the movie zips by. There is no drag. There can’t be, the damn thing’s barely over an hour long! And they cram as much of Dillinger’s life as they can into this time, starting with his first hasty not well thought out robbery of $7.20 that gets him picked up by the coppers and thrown in jail.
While there he ends up bunked with Edmund Lowe playing a mastermind robber named Specs. At first Dillinger puts up a tough guy routine, but then he learns just how revered Specs is and cozies up to him and his gang, including the great Elisha Cook Jr.
Dillinger has a shorter sentence than the others, so he promises he’ll come up with a plan to spring them when he’s out and low and behold he’s good to his word. Of course, it’s not long before he’s leading the group, taking it away from Specs. Specs was a little more cautious, but Dillinger is more brutal.
He goes out of his way to kill some motherfuckers in this movie. One of my absolute favorite moments is when he returns to the bar he was in at the beginning of the movie… he was told his credit was no good and insulted by the waiter, causing him to go out and haphazardly rob a little convenience store, which gets him nabbed.
So after a few dozen bloody robberies, Dillinger returns to this bar, orders beers, tips the waiter really well, asks him to sit… and then tortures him for a little bit, reminding the poor bastard of who he was. Just as it’s dawning on the nitwit, Tierney smashes his mug and jams it in the dude’s face!
It’s Hayes Code era, so you don’t see it, but even the implication is horrendous, sold completely by Tierney. I believe wholeheartedly that Tierney would stab some drip in the face with a broken mug of beer, no question.
The flick was nominated for best screenplay (Philip Yordan, who also wrote previous AMAD HOUDINI and is the front for tomorrow’s BATTLE OF THE BULGE) but lost to Richard Schweizer for MARIE-LOUISE.
Final Thoughts: This isn’t the best film in the Film Noir v.2 box set or even the best Lawrence Tierney film in the set (that’d be BORN TO KILL), but it’s a fast-paced, very entertaining thrillride of a film… God, if the movie wasn’t 63 years old you’d think I was gunning for a quote on the poster… But it’s true. Lawrence Tierney is outstanding (and frightening) as Dillinger and his supporting cast are all up to the task of keeping this one going full steam ahead. I had a lot of fun with this movie.
The schedule for the next few days is:
Sunday, September 28th: BATTLE OF THE BULGE (1965)
Monday, September 29th: DAISY KENYON (1947)
Tuesday, September 30th: LAURA (1944)
Wednesday, October 1st – Friday, October 31st: H-MAD! Horror Movie A Day! Check out the list here!
I’ve added a couple more titles to the list of potential Horror Movie A Day titles and have even more on order.
Tomorrow we follow writer Philip Yordan some 20 years into the future where he’s credited with the screenplay of WW2 epic BATTLE OF THE BULGE. I say credited because his name is on there as a front for blacklisted writer Bernard Gordon. Looking forward to this one… has a helluva cast… Robert Ryan and Robert Shaw in the same movie? How could the camera record film with both of these guys on the screen at the same time? I would have figured the old timey equipment would have been overloaded with the sheer amount of awesome it was being asked to process…