Dillinger Reviews

  • May 24, 2020

    In the great Hollywood tradition of history-be-damned, writer/director John Milius chose to tell a ripping good yarn over telling a historically accurate biopic of John Dillinger. Legendary character actor Warren Oats ("The Wild Bunch" "In the Heat of the Night" "Badlands") chews the scenery line none other and steals every scene as the mythic prohibition era gangster. Oats and Milius' version of Dillinger is arrogant, sexist, racist, and yet somehow manages to charm the audience and most everyone around him. Arthur Penn's "Bonnie & Clyde" was a huge hit and AIP wanted to cash in on that with its own gangster films, such as Angie Dickinson's "Big Bad Mama" or Martin Scorsese's "Boxcar Bertha" and this film. Milius' picture is by far the best of the "Bonnie & Clyde" knockoffs and manages to really be its own film. "Bonnie & Clyde" was notoriously violent when it was originally released and Milus too heaps on the blood and action in his picture as well. However, while the violence in Penn's film had a Sam Peckinpah-like beauty to it, the violence in "Dillinger" is more along the lines of a Sam Fuller in-your-face type of realistic brutality. It's hard to describe, but the violence in a Fuller film always felt more real, even if the story was filled with chinches, there was an honesty in how the violence was portrayed on screen, which made it all the more frightening, exhilaration, and unique of a film experience. Few filmmakers are able to capture this and when a filmmaker is able to, it's a real treat for viewers. Just like Fuller, Milius was working with a limited budget, but milks what he had for all it's worth. Besides Oats, the film boast a stellar supporting cast, that includes Ben Johnson, Michelle Phillips, Cloris Leachman, Harry Dean Stanton, Geoffrey Lewis John P. Ryan, Richard Dreyfuss, Steve Kanaly, Frank McRae, and legendary stuntman Terry Leonard (Harrison Ford's Indiana Jones stunt double). Oats rarely got leading roles, but when he did, such as this film, it's pure magic. Seeing Oates in any film, either as a leading man or a supporting players, it's impossible to see any other actor in those roles; "Cockfighter," "Two-Lane Blacktop," "Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia." It took some time, but the 1970s was really Warren Oates' golden age for juicy parts. My only complaint about the film is that it dips into David L. Wolper style historical documentary re-enactment, complete with corny narration, but that's not too terrible a sin for a low budget movie needing to cut corners, especially when Ben Johnson is doing the narration. Still, although not a perfect film, "Dillinger" is a minor masterpiece and a must see for all fans of prohibition era gangster pictures.

    In the great Hollywood tradition of history-be-damned, writer/director John Milius chose to tell a ripping good yarn over telling a historically accurate biopic of John Dillinger. Legendary character actor Warren Oats ("The Wild Bunch" "In the Heat of the Night" "Badlands") chews the scenery line none other and steals every scene as the mythic prohibition era gangster. Oats and Milius' version of Dillinger is arrogant, sexist, racist, and yet somehow manages to charm the audience and most everyone around him. Arthur Penn's "Bonnie & Clyde" was a huge hit and AIP wanted to cash in on that with its own gangster films, such as Angie Dickinson's "Big Bad Mama" or Martin Scorsese's "Boxcar Bertha" and this film. Milius' picture is by far the best of the "Bonnie & Clyde" knockoffs and manages to really be its own film. "Bonnie & Clyde" was notoriously violent when it was originally released and Milus too heaps on the blood and action in his picture as well. However, while the violence in Penn's film had a Sam Peckinpah-like beauty to it, the violence in "Dillinger" is more along the lines of a Sam Fuller in-your-face type of realistic brutality. It's hard to describe, but the violence in a Fuller film always felt more real, even if the story was filled with chinches, there was an honesty in how the violence was portrayed on screen, which made it all the more frightening, exhilaration, and unique of a film experience. Few filmmakers are able to capture this and when a filmmaker is able to, it's a real treat for viewers. Just like Fuller, Milius was working with a limited budget, but milks what he had for all it's worth. Besides Oats, the film boast a stellar supporting cast, that includes Ben Johnson, Michelle Phillips, Cloris Leachman, Harry Dean Stanton, Geoffrey Lewis John P. Ryan, Richard Dreyfuss, Steve Kanaly, Frank McRae, and legendary stuntman Terry Leonard (Harrison Ford's Indiana Jones stunt double). Oats rarely got leading roles, but when he did, such as this film, it's pure magic. Seeing Oates in any film, either as a leading man or a supporting players, it's impossible to see any other actor in those roles; "Cockfighter," "Two-Lane Blacktop," "Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia." It took some time, but the 1970s was really Warren Oates' golden age for juicy parts. My only complaint about the film is that it dips into David L. Wolper style historical documentary re-enactment, complete with corny narration, but that's not too terrible a sin for a low budget movie needing to cut corners, especially when Ben Johnson is doing the narration. Still, although not a perfect film, "Dillinger" is a minor masterpiece and a must see for all fans of prohibition era gangster pictures.

  • Jan 31, 2019

    The best movie character ever portrayed: Lawrence Tierney as John Dillinger!

    The best movie character ever portrayed: Lawrence Tierney as John Dillinger!

  • Jan 19, 2017

    Prolly my favorite role for Oates.

    Prolly my favorite role for Oates.

  • Apr 08, 2015

    I guess maybe because I saw Michael Mann's version before this one and even though Warren Oats from "Stripes" looks and sounds a lot like the real John Dillinger I admit I only got up to about 15 minutes before pulling it out of the DVD player because for its way too over the top with the characters and the story seems totally inaccurate from what I know about Dilinger

    I guess maybe because I saw Michael Mann's version before this one and even though Warren Oats from "Stripes" looks and sounds a lot like the real John Dillinger I admit I only got up to about 15 minutes before pulling it out of the DVD player because for its way too over the top with the characters and the story seems totally inaccurate from what I know about Dilinger

  • Feb 28, 2015

    So much better than the newer Dillinger movie called Public Enemies with much of the same situations. The 70s were just a better feel for movies and plenty more action in this one!

    So much better than the newer Dillinger movie called Public Enemies with much of the same situations. The 70s were just a better feel for movies and plenty more action in this one!

  • Jan 25, 2015

    I guess maybe because I saw Michael Mann's version before this one and even though Warren Oats from "Stripes" looks and sounds a lot like the real John Dillinger I admit I only got up to about 15 minutes before pulling it out of the DVD player because for its way too over the top with the characters and the story seems totally inaccurate from what I know about Dilinger

    I guess maybe because I saw Michael Mann's version before this one and even though Warren Oats from "Stripes" looks and sounds a lot like the real John Dillinger I admit I only got up to about 15 minutes before pulling it out of the DVD player because for its way too over the top with the characters and the story seems totally inaccurate from what I know about Dilinger

  • Aug 05, 2014

    A tragically under seen classic of the New Hollywood era. An astounding action film that packs the punch of filmmakers familiar with real life violence.

    A tragically under seen classic of the New Hollywood era. An astounding action film that packs the punch of filmmakers familiar with real life violence.

  • Jan 26, 2014

    Better than Mann's Public Enemies

    Better than Mann's Public Enemies

  • May 06, 2013

    So much better than the newer Dillinger movie called Public Enemies with much of the same situations. The 70s were just a better feel for movies and plenty more action in this one!

    So much better than the newer Dillinger movie called Public Enemies with much of the same situations. The 70s were just a better feel for movies and plenty more action in this one!

  • Apr 30, 2013

    I liked the casting, especially that of Warren Oates as Dillinger. To make use of a convenient cliche, he was born to play the role. I also liked some of the cinematography that displayed wide open American farm country. But overall it was more focused on elaborate gun battle sequences, almost like attempting to one up Sam Peckinpah in regards to the sheer explosive brutality of it. It didn't gel out with the rest of the movie. The scenes between Dillinger and Billie Frechette were awkward and extremely limiting for the actors. It was John Milius's script which ruined the great potential of this film, which, I'm not hating on the man, after all, he wrote Apocalypse Now, but still. We all make mistakes.

    I liked the casting, especially that of Warren Oates as Dillinger. To make use of a convenient cliche, he was born to play the role. I also liked some of the cinematography that displayed wide open American farm country. But overall it was more focused on elaborate gun battle sequences, almost like attempting to one up Sam Peckinpah in regards to the sheer explosive brutality of it. It didn't gel out with the rest of the movie. The scenes between Dillinger and Billie Frechette were awkward and extremely limiting for the actors. It was John Milius's script which ruined the great potential of this film, which, I'm not hating on the man, after all, he wrote Apocalypse Now, but still. We all make mistakes.