lawrence tierney, in an early role, stars as john dillinger. as legendary a character as dillinger is, it amazes me that this first filmed attempt at capturing his allure falls a bit flat. it’s certainly not a bad film, but relative to something like scarface (either version) or bonnie and clyde, it just doesn’t measure up. tierney does an adequate job, but i’d be more interested in seeing what ralph meeker does in the 1960 version. elisha cook jr. (killing, maltese falcon, big sleep, shane) and marc lawrence (asphalt jungle, key largo) play two of the gang members, but they aren’t really allowed to shine because so much of the energy is expended on the relationship between dillinger and his mentor (played by silent era actor edmund lowe). to be fair, the film is only 70 minutes long so there isn’t much room for secondary character development. i felt, though, that it would have benefited a great deal from another 15 minutes to flesh out some of the secondary characters and take a bit more time to get into dillinger’s head.
besides the short running time and lack of true character development the film suffered a bit in the direction category. i should have taken notes because i can’t recall some of the directorial lapses, but there were some illogical cuts and minor directorial miscues. there was also an inexcusable inclusion of a map of los angeles during a montage which was supposed to show the dillinger gang’s heist spree in indiana.
if the film had been given the proper a-list treatment that it deserved i think it would have been more a classic in my mind, but, as is, it’s a bit of a disappointment.