Sunday, November 24, 2013

A Bullet for Pretty Boy (1970)

          Representing yet another entry into the seemingly endless cycle of post-Bonnie and Clyde crime flicks set during the Depression, A Bullet for Pretty Boy stars former teen idol Fabian—billed with his full name, Fabian Forte—as farmboy-turned-outlaw Charles “Pretty Boy” Floyd. And while the movie contains nothing even remotely approaching artistry or originality, the picture is basically watchable thanks to the inherent appeal of the genre and the likeability of the leading actor. Fitting the usual formula for this sort of thing, A Bullet for Pretty Boy begins prior to the title character’s life of crime. On the day of his marriage to wholesome Ruby (Astrid Warner), Charles gets into a hassle with Ruby’s ex-boyfriend. Later, the guy aims a gun at Charles and accidentally kills Charles’ father, so Charles gets revenge by killing his father’s murderer. A six-year prison sentence is his reward. Partway through his incarceration, Charles breaks out of jail and becomes a fugitive, hooking up with a kindhearted madam and her gangster brothers, who give Charles the nickname “Pretty Boy.” While hiding out in the madam’s brothel, Charles gets involved with a hooker named Betty (Jocelyn Lane). Eventually, Betty becomes Charles’ moll while he embarks on a bank-robbing career. Finally, the story transforms into a love triangle when Charles tries to return home. Danger and tragedy ensue, because cops are waiting for Charles at every turn.
          While it’s admirable that the folks at American International Pictures attempted to examine the psychological and sociological backgrounds for famous gangsters in pictures such as A Bullet for Pretty Boy, the predictability and superficiality of the storytelling in these movies often undercut the good intentions. For example, even though A Bullet for Pretty Boy is only 89 minutes, the film is padded with music-driven montage sequences that use the same bland pop/rock songs over and over again. In other words, maybe 30 minutes of the movie are devoted to character development, and the rest of the running time comprises repetitive filler. That said, AIP knew how to stretch a dollar, so period props and rural locations are used effectively to create a sense of place, and even the least imaginative bank-robbery scene has some built-in excitement. It’s also (mildly) interesting to note that A Bullet for Pretty Boy is rated PG, which means the movie doesn’t rely on the usual exploitation-cinema tropes of gore and nudity. Instead, the film is primarily focused on the protagonist’s struggle to make the best of the circumstances in which he finds himself. Fabian does acceptable work, scowling to suggest anguish, while leading ladies Lane and Warner provide lovely decoration even if their acting underwhelms. B-movie stalwart Adam Roarke, alas, is wasted in a minor part as a country preacher who leaves the religious life behind to join Charles’ crime spree.

A Bullet for Pretty Boy: FUNKY

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