Thursday, March 24, 2011

Capone (1975)

Producer Roger Corman milked the gangster genre relentlessly with innumerable rip-offs of Bonnie and Clyde (1967), so by the mid-’70s he was still cranking out flicks about Depression-era goons blasting each other with Tommy guns. Case in point: Capone, a mediocre but watchable attempt to blend the rat-a-tat action of old Warner Bros. gangster flicks with a few stylistic nods to The Godfather (1972). As directed by pulp specialist Steve Carver, who knew how to keep things moving even if logic got crushed along the way, Capone presents a string of zippy episodes tracking the ascension of notorious real-life gangster Al Capone (Ben Gazzara) from New York street hoodlum to powerful Chicago crime lord. There’s not much in the way of depth or insight, but the picture is filled with malevolent power plays and violent shootouts as Capone climbs the organized-crime ladder, first working for tough mentor Johnny Torrio (Harry Guardino) and then seizing control for himself. The picture plays lip service to Capone’s growing pains as a gangster, showing his struggle to slap a layer of political sheen over his animalistic nature, but mostly the film bops from one bloody episode to the next. Adding interest is a passable love story between Capone and drunken moll Iris Crawford (Susan Blakeley); it makes sense that ambitious Iris gloms onto someone in whom she sees the potential for underworld greatness, and Blakely is both gorgeous and believably tough. Unfortunately, Gazzara is terrible. So boisterous and bug-eyed that it almost seems he’s delivering a comedy performance, Gazzara makes it impossible to connect with Capone as a real character. The other fatal flaw is the movie’s episodic nature. Still, there’s plenty for fans of the genre to enjoy despite the problems: A pre-Rocky Sylvester Stallone shows up for a sizable role as Capone’s brutal lieutenant, Frank Nitti, and Carver adds style by linking sequences with a cool red-tinted dissolve effect. Capone isn’t particularly impressive, but it’s crudely entertaining.

Capone: FUNKY

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