• Machine Gun Kelly

    Released by: Direct Video Distribution
    Released on: 6/25/2004
    Directors: Roger Corman
    Cast: Charles Bronson, Susan Cabot, Morey Amsterdam, Richard Devon, Jack Lambert, Frank DeCova
    Year: 1958
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    The Movie:

    Charles Bronson (Death Wish) plays George ‘Machine Gun’ Kelly in this fast paced crime thriller directed by a young Roger Corman. Kelly starts off as a small time crook but once he hooks up with Flo (Susan Cabot of The Viking Women And The Sea Serpent), she convinces him that it’s time to hit the criminal big time and soon enough, he’s knocking over a few banks. What can he do to top this string of robberies? How about a kidnapping! That’s exactly what Flo and her brothel running mother convince George he needs to do and that’s exactly what George does. His ambitions prove to be too big for the man though, and ultimately prove to be his undoing.

    George Kelly was an odd man who was sensitive about his height and very afraid of dying. He makes for an unusual gangster but one that Charles Bronson plays fairly well. It’s not his best role or his most convincing but he is pretty good in it and even evokes a little bit of sympathy for his despicable character in a few scenes. He’s one part cold-blooded killer and one part manipulated sap. Cabot, on the other hand, overacts quite a bit but somehow it seems to suit the film anyway. Her character almost needs someone to go a little over the top and she fits the bill well, looking good in the process. The supporting characters are fun as well, like Flo’s mother and the rather exuberant gas station worker.

    Machine Gun Kelly is a better than average 50s b-movie that looks more expensive and carefully made than it probably was. The photography effectively brings the shadows and nighttime scenes to life in grand fashion and the shoot out scenes are well choreographed and nicely constructed. Floyd Crosby was behind the camera with Cormon for this one, and the DP for films like High Noon and The Pit And The Pendulum probably played a big role in getting the film to look as good as it did on the small budget it had to work with.

    Even if we all know how it’s going to end, and despite the rather downbeat turn that the film is inevitably going to take, Bronson and Corman do a good job with the material. Essentially, the film makes you want to know what happens to the titular George Kelly as he works his way up to the top of the FBI’s most wanted list.


    I’m not sure of the original aspect ratio but if the fullframe presentation here is cropped, it’s not horrendously noticeable. Contrast is dead on and the black and white image is nice and sharp. Print damage is only noticeable if you’re looking for it and in order to see it you’ll have to look pretty hard.

    The Dolby Digital Mono soundtrack is of pretty good quality for an old B-movie. It’s clean and clear without any problems aside from a couple of scenes where the levels are just a bit too low. Most of the time dialogue is not a problem to understand and there are even a few moments where the background music comes through quite vividly. Optional subtitles are available in Dutch and English.

    Included on the disc are a few trailers for other films in the Arkoff Film Library – The She Creature, War Of The Colossal Beast, Voodoo Woman, The Undead, The Spider, The Brain Eaters, Blood Of Dracula and Reform School Girl. Rounding out the supplements is an audio interview with Arkoff from 1991, recorded at an appearance that he made at the National Film Theater. Pictures play underneath the discussion as a sort of slide show, as the late producer talks candidly about his life and his work. If you’ve seen any of the other films in the series and these extras seem similar, that’s because they are.

    The Final Word:

    Machine Gun Kelly is a fun little crime movie with a great pulp feel that gets a nice presentation on DVD that’s been long overdue. Video quality is crisp and sharp, sound is fine, and while the extras aren’t anything you haven’t seen before (at least if you own any of the other Arkoff discs), if they are new to you you’ll probably find them interesting. Bronson fans will want this disc.