Tedium of this bloody trio
After the Spring Bank Holiday (not at Whitsun this year) I returned to the bloodiest trio of movies I can remember sitting through in one day.
At the end of it, overpowered by the concentration on murder, corruption and vendetta. deafened by the non-stop rattle of machine-gun Fire, I felt more numb with tedium than with shock. Of the three, admittedly Dillinger ("X", ABC 2, Shaftesbury Avenue) was the best of the three as well as the beastliest.
John Dillinger was of course one of the great hero-villains — Public Enemy Number One — of the 0-men era, the Chicago reign of gangsters and Prohibition. John Milius, writerdirector of the new screen version of his story, begins with a nice sense of period.
Both the music and the stark black-and-white photography of the opening take us back with something like documentary force to the 30s. Soon, however, he changes to not unsubtle but more conventional colour, and as he follows Dillinger's last months and the FBI's pursuit of him from state to state, the story becomes a series of sharp-cut coups, escapes, bank raids, massacres.
The pursuit by cities and gaols, railroads and open spaces to the last shoot-out at "Little Bohemia Lodge", has echoes of "Bonnie and Clyde" — which it even acknowledges. But although it even has a similar attention to detail, the narrative is too jerky, from one exploit to another, with place-name captions, ever to achieve the same vitality and singleness of vision.
Casting is first-rate. Dillinger makes a great figure for Warren Oates, who even achieves some of the likeness to Douglas Fairbanks Senior which flattered Dillinger into his athletic hank
robberies. For the FBI, Ben Johnson, dedicated to get Dillinger, is jtist as good.
As Dillinger's supposed true love, "Billie Frechette", Mireille Philips has style as well as beauty. As the "Lady in Red", the procuress who betrayed him, Cloris Leachman rivals, hut unrecognisably, her own triumph in "The Last Picture Show" and, like Ben Johnson, justifies her Oscar for that picture. But it is a depressing slice of history from living memory.
At least Summertime Killer ("X", Astoria and New Victoria) declares itself. For it concerns the ruthless perseverance of a young man (Christopher Mitchum, bright blond son of Robert with his father's droopy eyelids) to avenge the brutal murder of his father — in America, Italy or Spain? — from a motor-launch in the sunlit summer scenes of Portugal.
The film was made two years ago and its apparent lack of heart or head might lead one to suppose that it had lain about until the providential arrival of Portugal in the news provided a slim pretext for showing it. As the boy's sailing-companion it is difficult to tell Olivia Hussey From him, for both have the same hair-do. That excellent actor, Karl Malden also goes along — alas, to not much purpose.
Just what the title of Newman's Law means ("AA", Ritz) I can't be sure, but presumably the film is intended to be on the side of the angels — that is to say of an incorruptible cop. Newman (George Peppard) and his black colleague (Roger Robinson) stumble in the course of duty on to a major drug deal, which leads them into decidedly Mafia-like territory and eventually into the whole policecorruption syndrome.