Combustible Celluloid
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With: Lawrence Tierney, Edmund Lowe, Anne Jeffreys, Eduardo Ciannelli, Marc Lawrence, Elisha Cook Jr.
Written by: Philip Yordan
Directed by: Max Nosseck
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 70
Date: 03/02/1945

Dillinger (1945)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Gangland Lord

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

This 70-minute classic from Monogram Studios is the epitome of what they call "lean and mean" -- it was the biggest hit the studio ever made. Lawrence Tierney stars in the title role, a totally ruthless human being seemingly born without any morals. Anne Jeffreys co-stars as the gorgeous, equally amoral moll. While drinking in a bar, Dillinger runs out of cash, sticks up a local shop and gets caught. Prison only hardens him more; he hooks up with a gang (whose members include Edmund Lowe and Elisha Cook, Jr.) and rises to bigger and more spectacular crimes, including murder. In one especially brutal scene, he goes back to the same bar, finds the waiter who once snubbed him and smashes him in the face with a broken beer glass. Tierney was apparently quite a troublemaker himself and was arrested several times during his career, though director Max Nosseck must have bonded with him in some way because they worked together many more times. The film moves quickly and never fails to capture nuance, atmosphere or character traits (Cook's character likes to eat grapes). It's a muscular, completely fat-free achievement. The great screenwriter Philip Yordan (Johnny Guitar, The Man from Laramie) received an Oscar nomination for his script. Tierney famously resurfaced in 1992 when Quentin Tarantino cast him as the crime kingpin Joe in Reservoir Dogs.

DVD Details: John Milius provides a commentary track for Warner Home Video's new DVD, mainly comparing and contrasting it with his more factual 1973 version, starring Warren Oates. Interview clips with Yordan can also be heard. In addition the disc comes with a trailer and optional English, Spanish and French subtitles. Warner Home Video has released Dillinger as part of the new Film Noir Classic Collection, Vol. 2 (also including Point Blank, Crossfire, Clash by Night, The Narrow Margin and Born to Kill).

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