Dillinger (1945)
Reviewed in February 2010
Director: Max Nosseck. Cast: Lawrence Tierney, Edmund Lowe, Anne Jeffreys, Marc Lawrence, Elisha Cook, Jr., Eduardo Ciannelli, Ludwig Stössel, Elsa Janssen, Lou Lubin, Constance Worth, Ralph Lewis, William B. Davidson, Selmer Jackson, Victor Kilian. Screenplay: Philip Yordan.

Photo © 1945 Monogram Pictures/Kings Bros. Productions
Beautiful contrast between the cruddy and drowned Bank truck, and the shimmering water from which it is retrieved; Dillinger onstage after the newsreel; Blonde sulky and wheelding about getting antoher drink, despite skeptical "pay in advance" waiter; Pathetically robbing $7.20 from a grocery store to buy a drink for this slattern; Even the rivery sheen of the jail corridor in diagonal framing is gorgeous, but not suspiciously so; HOT! Shirtless! $70,000 Specs Green haul; E Cook - grapes in the mail; Quickly supersexy hitting on the blonde box-office girl (Helen), great wipe on the clock, so it's extra ugly and surprising when he holds her up for her $$$; Nice zoom and cut into the mugshot - the mental life of criminal charisma, experienced from the outside; and then she DOES go out with him, after refusing to identify him; Fortune cookie: "Associatoins mdae on this day will be highly profitable and lasting"; Visual tensions: stark but natural shadows (quarry under bridge), foregrounded objects (jail bars, bridge rails); Grey dust kicked up by the cement truck as it pulls up with the barrel of firearms; Impressively seedy and authoritarian but weirdly dignified EL; deliberately "striking twice" in close proximity; A bit dull visually, with lots of close-ups, or head-and-shoulders shots, but I like the "mug shot" resonance; Beer for the waiter who embarrassed him before; FIERCE offscreen facial gashing, prec by brrief POV approach of the smashed glass-stein handle, of the waiter; piano player keeps tickling, as offscreen waiter pulls tablecloth down from below; Fatally overweening tour of the bank from account proprietor - bulletproof glass, impenetrable vault, tear-gas releases; Push-in on rainy back window, with just the smallest sliver of Dillinger's eeys through the cracked car window; Repeated, blinding white, limey-looking explosions; limp guard's body laid out near a hydrant, then run over by the getaway car - another grim POV, followed by a kind of matching wipe; speedy track around the log-cabin retreat; throwing his weight around by making them stand up for Helen; whole series of violent hold-ups in montage; upset and nervous about impacted wisdom tooth, v. nervous about anaesthetic; ("deeper, deeper, deeper"); police capture him as he starts to go under, announced in a shot so rainy and low-constrast in the dark you can barely see it; EL delighted; he whittles himself a gun out of a block of wood that a neighbor is using to whittle a boat for a guard's son; wheedles the truth out of Specs with the same wooden gun that worked on the guard; then shoots him point-blank with a real gun he's kept concealed; Shipment of $300,000 heading to First National; train robbery!; dark and invigorating train robbery, during which John is shot; Dillinger to the Ottos: "What are you looking at me for??"; Discovery of Ottos' treachery looks simlar to the newsreel-watching in the first scene; he shoots 'em dead!, with their hands cranking the phone; The "$15,000 Reward" caption on the public Wanted poster gets its own CU and exclamatory trill for Helen; happens AGAIN re: the Wanted poster that JD keeps on the wall of his own hideout apartment; do we need the kids outside singing "Silent Night"?; dialogue attention to Helen's red dress; they go back to the Biograph, where a thinner, older-looking version of Helen is now at the booth; shot in the dingiest, detritus-filled alley between theaters; his pockets are picked by the feds, who find that he has $7.20 - the same amount he stole from the grocer at the outset; Movie never even goes back to pick up the papa-confessional frame; I love the sense of nasty compression, moving quickly and with disreputable violence and swiftness, but also holds back from being mythologizing as a longer movie almost inevitably is; Great that JD's blaming of his criminality on the condescending waiter is obviously self-serving and over-weening; Dmitri Tiomkin score, don't forget, though it's nowhere near as conspcious or lush as later ones; We're so far away from JD and Helen as they emerge, that her look over at the waiting Feds is even easier to miss; A

Academy Award Nominations:
Best Original Screenplay: Philip Yordan

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