Heavy hitting gangsters all on the screen at the same time. This film portrays the notorious last years of bank robber and gangster John Dillinger and his infamous gang of men. Written and directed by a legend in his own right John Milius.
Set during the Great Depression in the early 1930’s this action packed movie follows the charismatic John Dillinger on his quest to relieve the banks of their funds. Following the deaths of several law enforcement officers during the carnage of the Kansas City Massacre in 1933 FBI special agent Melvin Purvis steps up on a personal mission to bring these hoodlums to justice. If that justice is at the hand of a gun and a smoking cigar, so be it. This is the story of the G-Men (the FBI government men) and their mission to put a stop the Dillinger Gang, the ruthless terror gang. Here are all the players surrounding our Public Enemy Number One……
Warren Oates is John Dillinger
Ben Johnson is Melvin Purvis
Michelle Phillips is Evelyn Billie Frechette
John Dillinger and Evelyn Billie Frechette together
Harry Dean Stanton is Homer Van Meter
Geoffrey Lewis is Harry Pierpont
Richard Dreyfuss is Baby Face Nelson
Frank McRae is Herbert Reed Youngblood
Steve Kanaly is Pretty Boy Floyd
Tagline – The Best Damn Bank Robber in the World!
Other real life gangster featured in the movie are Charles Makley, George Machine Gun Kelly and Handsome Jack Klutas.
A few observations and things I’ve learnt.
- Bizarrely Melvin Purvis appeared on the game show To Tell The Truth were the panel has to guess which out the three contestants is the real FBI agent. It was shown in september 1957. Three years later he would die from a bullet from his own gun at the age of 56.
- Michelle Phillips from pop group The Mamas and the Papas fame got married to Dennis Hopper for 8 whole days! I bet that was one insane crazy wild ride.
- Warren Oates and Ben Johnson had earlier played the Gorch brothers in Sam Peckinpah’s classic western The Wild Bunch.
- John Milius also got to write a sequel of sorts in a TV movie called Melvin Purvis G-Man (1974) sounds like it was to be a pilot for a series that never worked out. There was another film by the director Dan Curtis called The Kansas City Massacre (1975) both starring Dale Robertson in the Purvis role. Anyone seen them? Any good?
- FBI Special Agent Clarence Hurt who was involved with many high profile cases during the gangster era was employed on the film as a technical advisor. What a fantastic photo this is.
- There’s a 1945 version starring Lawrence Tierney as Dillinger. I haven’t seen it. A TV movie from 1991 starring Mark Harmon and Will Patton as Melvin Purvis. Then there was the big budget Michael Mann directed film in 2009 called Public Enemies. Johnny Depp was JD and Christian Bale was MP. Yep I kid you not. TBH I didn’t like it at the time but might revisit it now that it’s back on my radar just to see the comparison with the Milius vision.
- Fellow movie blogger Mike’s Take On The Movies has done a neat little video introducing the film on his site, pop on over for a look here.
- One of my favorite lines from Harry Dean Stanton “Goddamit! Things ain’t workin’ out for me today!”
- Go read about John Dillinger and the plastic surgery story on the wikipedia page! Bizarre is the word.
It’s a extremely exciting fast paced film with superb characters and equally excellent actors. It’s bloody and furious at times. I’d had seen it as a kid and only remembered small scenes, the farm house and a few of the frenzied bank raids. It was a pure delight to rewatch. Well with that calibre of actors all together on the screen it was always gonna be like a blast from a Colt Thompson submachine gun.
One of your favourites? Remember it well? Let me know if want. Fascinating to read the real life stories behind the infamous men! What a crazy time!