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Corman's St. Valentine's Day Massacre...


mikat1
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This film is unique in the history of gangster films. It's not really a noir film, but has elements of noir influence. Shot in widescreen and color by master cameraman Milton Krasner, himself an architect of early b&w noir (Scarlet Street, The Woman in the Window, The Set Up), Massacre also has a docudrama feel familiar to anyone who's a fan of the old Untouchables TV series, complete with narration (Paul Frees instead of Walter Winchell)

The casting choices reflect the influences of classic Warner Bros. gangster films. Jason Robards bore no resemblence to Al Capone whatsoever, but he does look a bit like Bogart here, and George Segal's turn at a James Cagney imitation is obvious in an early scene practically lifted from Public Enemy.

One thing this film does that not many other gangster films before it has done is to show how much of a business gangsterism had become by the late 1920's, a direct precursor to The Godfather, made by one-time Corman protege Francis Coppola. The link here is complete, with Alex Rocco in both films, famously playing Moe Green in the latter.

There's really no one to root for in this crimefest, unlike the other neo-noir of the same year, Bonnie and Clyde. Corman's gangster masterpiece has suffered in the shadow of Arthur Penn's more widely admired film, but true gangster film fans still know a classic when they see one.

I'm always hoping it will get shown on TV around Valentine's Day, like it used to back in the 70's and 80's, but I guess that kind of morbid programming choice is frowned upon these days.

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A well written and perceptive post. I can see that you're going to be an asset to this forum.

 

One of the many highlights of this film is the priceless look on Ralph Meeker's face when he's sitting in a luncheonette, waiting for the (phony) cops to leave the garage, and someone bursts in saying, "A bunch of hoods got killed down the street. One of them was Bugsy Siegel!"

 

Robards is great as Capone. And the next time I see the picture I'll look for the Segal/Cagney homage.

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I've always liked this film, its well made and a lot of very good performances in it. I get the sense (maybe I'm wrong here) that it is a fair representation of the people and the events. I would say docudrama is a good description, its not what I would consider a noir film.

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