© 1958 American International Pictures (AIP)

Machine-Gun Kelly (1958)

After seeing Charles Bronson in Death Wish the other day, I was eager to see him in more. I got together with friends who love the actor so much they have a cat named after him. We wanted to go back to the beginning, and see Bronson in one of his first roles. We were really bowled over by his performance in his very first starring role, and also the quality of the movie, which is surprisingly good considering it is a Roger Corman production.

Although this a low-budget crime exploitation flick that was probably filmed in less than a week, it seems at least some thought was put into it. I have no idea if this point was based on the real-life George “Machine Gun” Kelly, but the gangster in the film has an irrational fear of death, funeral homes and caskets, and his weakness more than once gets in the way during a bank heist. This adds some interesting depth to what could have been a stock character, and Bronson plays it wonderfully. Playing the gangster’s moll is Susan Cabot, whose movie career would soon be ended by staring in another Corman-directed film, the notorious turkey The Wasp Woman. Connie Gilchrist is great as her mother, a brothel madam who is not upset that her daughter has taken up with a bank robber, but that he is not very good at robbing banks. But this is a Corman film, after all, and it does have its weak moments, such as a comic relief character played by Borscht-belt comic Morey Amsterdam.

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