The truth is that I don't care if this movie is even the slightest more accurate because there isn't much here other than some good shootouts. The 70's had some unusual filming and editing on some films, and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. Here, I just thought the editing was poor and the movie had a very episodic feel overall.
It's like the director was caught in between making a documentary and a film and the film just never planted it's foot in a good and firmly fashion. Ben Johnson gave his usual one note performance as Mevin Pervis and Warren Oates did his best with the limited material that he had.
Richard Dreyfuss was terrible as Baby Face Nelson and there is a scene where Nelson and Dillinger had a big confrontation that totally killed this movie for me. The only real highlights here are the shootout scenes. Don't expect much else from this film.
This film takes place during the Great Depression were getting money is very hard, but not for John Dillinger (played by Warren Oates) and his gang. John Dillinger's gang is one of the most dangerous gangs out there and is filled with killers and robbers. No one has ever stopped Dillinger but one G-Man, Melvin Purvis (played by Ben Johnson) has made it his job to stop all big time killers and robbers, sure enough Dillinger is on that list. Purvis is certain he will take Dillinger down and Dillinger is certain that he'll never get caught, and if he is caught it won't be for long. Also in this film you see the romance he had with Billie Frechette (played by Michelle Philips), his daring escapes from prison, and the his exciting bank robberies.
John Milius had a lot to do in this movie, he directed and wrote the script. Overall he did a fine job. I thought his directing in this movie was really good and he shows us that in the opening scene. The opening scene to this movie was just wonderful and had great writing and great directing. The directing in this movie is great all throughout the movie and I really had no complaints about it, as for the writing I did have a few problems. The main problem that I had with this movie was the way they showed the romance between John Dillinger and Billie Frechette. At first I thought it was pretty decent but as the movie went on I just started to hate it and after the movie I started to think about the movie and realized that the start of their relationship wasn't even that good. At first I thought it was the acting but going back to the start of their relationship I realized that it was Milius's fault with his poor writing of the romance. Even though this has nothing to do with the writing I have to say that the music that was going on during those romantic scenes was just horrible and made it seem like the movie was a movie all about love. Other than the romance I thought this movie was written very well. Even though this movie isn't entirely accurate I enjoyed everything about the writing, other than the romance. This movie has some great scenes and some great dialogue. One scene that I found very amusing and clever is a scene where Purvis and Dillinger are both at the same restaurant with their dates, I thought the scene was very clever and well written.
One thing worth mentioning in this review is that this movie has some very exciting shootouts that are fun to watch, especially the huge shootout between the FBI and the Dillinger gang in the third act of the film.
The acting in this movie has it's good along with some performances that are questionable. In this movie Warren Oates steals the show as John Dillinger. Although I liked the character of John Dillinger in the 1945 version I liked this one a lot better, in the 1945 version John Dillinger at times looked harmless but could also be very dangerous and in this movie I always felt that this guy is dangerous. Warren Oates just does a great job at this role because he feels so intimidating and you know this guy is trouble just by looking at his face. Like I said earlier I hated the romance in this movie and thought it was written horribly, the only thing I liked about it was Oates performance but on the other hand you got Michelle Philips performance. Oates was the only good thing about the romance in this movie but Michelle Philips was just horrible in everyway. If her performance was actually good I could have probably gotten past the bad writing and actually enjoyed the romance between those two but she was just bad. In almost every scene she's in she's just horrible and there's one scene in particular were I was just so annoyed by her. One thing that makes up for Philip's is Ben Johnson's performance as Melvin Purvis. I completely bought that he was a G-Man wanting to take down all these killers and I even felt that if I were a criminal I would be very intimidated by this guy. Other performances that are worth mentioning are Harry Dean Stanton as Homer Van Meter, Richard Dreyfuss as Baby Face Nelson, and Steve Kanaly as Pretty Boy Floyd.
In the end the 1973 version of Dillinger is a very good film but not quite great. Other than one area the writing is superb, the directing is great, the acting is great with the exception of a few and it all combines into one damn good movie. The romance does take this movie down quite a bit and this movie isn't entirely accurate about John Dillinger's life of crime and that's what kept me from thinking this is a great film. If you can get past the stupid romance and enjoy gangster flicks this is definitely worth checking out and if your looking for a good movie about John Dillinger's life I would say check it out because it's a bit more accurate than the 1945 version.
Solid performance by Warren Oates in the lead role. Ben Johnson is possibly a bit hammy as Melvin Purvis. Good support from Michelle Phillips, Richard Dreyfus, Harry Dean Stanton and Steve Kanaly.
Better than Michael Mann's 2009 version of the Dillinger story, Public Enemies. Grittier and more freely flowing.
I pretty much loved the film, it's one of those violent romantic film that they don't make any more, like Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid and Bonnie and Clyde. All the actors actually looks pretty much like the characters they are portraying. I don't care if they are way older than their character were in real life, that only makes them more reliable and more balanced. And also there's some pretty good supporting performance by Richard Dreyfuss as Baby Face Nelson, and who can say no to Harry Dean Stanton. Besides the acting, there's the action scenes of course. I do like Public Emeny's action sequences, but with Dillinger, the easiest is often the best. Thumbs up.
Other than that, this film is full of good old fashion VIOLENCE. The acting generally SUCKS. A story about the most sought after criminal in the U.S. besides Al Capone, of course.
True-life story of gangster John Dillinger. His violent life of crime made headline news in the thirties, an he robbed banks across the midwest. A folk hero of sorts, Dillinger was caught in a whirl of machine guns, fast cars and beautiful women. But it came to a bloody end in 1934 when the FBI gunned him down.
I will admit this however: The shootouts are fantastic!
The last half of the film, to it's credit, is full of fast action thrills and mayhem as the members of the gang are all hunted down. The cinematography is first rate as well.
But make no mistake, Dillinger could shoot. Most of the townsfolk and police that are shooting get killed by him or his gang. As most of these town heroes have shotguns, they were not good shots hundreds of feet away from their targets. Instead, they got killed themselves.
["After a shoot-out kills five FBI agents in Kansas City the Bureau target John Dillinger as one of the men to hunt down. Waiting for him to break Federal law they sort out several other mobsters, while Dillinger's bank robbing exploits make him something of a folk hero. Escaping from jail he finds Pretty Boy Floyd and Baby Face Nelson have joined the gang and pretty soon he is Public Enemy Number One. Now the G-men really are after him." (Written by Jeremy Perkins) ]
Occassionally narrated in the beginning by Ben Johnson (as Pervis) is hysterical. He comes on with that good old boy, cowboy talk that made him silly and infamous in all those cheesy John Wayne Westerns. I had to mute the guy everytime he spoke in narration.
Michelle Phillips** (of the sixties singing legends Mamas and Papas) is fun to watch in a brief appearances in one of her few films. Unfortunately, all we see in scenes are Warren Oates, as Dillinger, threatening everyone he meets and asserting his name as the greatest criminal of all. Arrogantly asserting to his victums that they can tell their children about his exploits.
I am sorry, but this is one bad movie in the first half of this supposedly biography-drama film. Please watch Bonnie and Clyde instead...... Despite the reviews by others, this is not for sophisticated, experienced viewers in the first half or even throughout.
Juicy NOTES about the film:
1 After evading police in four states for almost a year, Dillinger was wounded and returned to his father's home to recover. He returned to Chicago in July 1934 and met his end at the hands of police and federal agents who were informed of his whereabouts by Ana Cumpanas. On July 22, the police and Division of Investigation closed in on the Biograph Theater. Federal agents, led by Melvin Purvis, moved to arrest him as he left the theater. He pulled a weapon and attempted to flee but was shot three times and killed.
2 ** 1974 Nominated Golden Globe Most Promising Newcomer - Michelle Phillips
3 After the closing credits a voice (Paul Frees) can be heard decrying the film and calling it a source of corruption for children.
4 Directed, Writer, Screenplay by John Milius
Writes one reviewer:
"I can't help but be somewhat disappointed by the movie. Although it claims to be a kind of biography of Dillinger, you learn very little about him."
Warren Oates ... John Dillinger
Ben Johnson ... Melvin Purvis
Michelle Phillips ... Billie Frechette
Cloris Leachman ... Anna Sage
Harry Dean Stanton ... Homer Van Meter
Geoffrey Lewis ... Harry Pierpont
John P. Ryan ... Charles Mackley (as John Ryan)
Richard Dreyfuss ... Baby Face Nelson
Director: John Milius
Writer: John Milius
Screenplay: John Milius
Executive Producer: Samuel Z. Arkoff
Cinematographer: Jules Brenner
Composer: Barry De Vorzon
Executive Producer: Lawrence Gordon
Editor: Fred R. Feitshans Jr.
Producer: Buzz Feitshans
Art Director: Trevor Martinez
Set Decorator : Charles Pierce
Associate Producer: Robert Papazian