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The St. Valentine's Day Massacre/Review

From The Grindhouse Cinema Database

< The St. Valentine's Day Massacre
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It was by pure chance that I got around to watching The St. Valentine's Day Massacre. I was searching for depression era true crime stories when I read about the massacre. It was fascinating reading about it as it was not what I had imagined in my head. It was while reading about it that this movie caught my attention.

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The movie deals with the various events that lead to the actual massacre. It was fascinating to watch how the events leading to the massacre unfolded. Especially how they escalated to the point where Al Capone orders the massacre.

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For any movie to work, the actors portraying the characters have to be well cast. It is here that the movie fails to an extent as it does feel miscast. I have to mention Jason Robards (Once Upon a Time in the West) who chews the scenery and everything else from miles around. He is way taller, healthier and good looking than the pudgy and full of bustle Al Capone in your head. Combine that with the habit of people who play Al Capone to go all in and we get a performance for the ages.

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I remember watching a deleted scene from Road to Perdition involving Al Capone. Even though in the theatrical version, he is an unseen force of nature lording over everybody. Al Capone is this pudgy scenery-chewing caricature who's no longer a person but a cartoon. It is sad that it is how Jason Robards portrays him too. Now it's easy to blame Robert De Niro's portrayal in The Untouchables for this. But you have to remember, this was twenty years before that movie.

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Still, the other actors in the movie are pretty good in their respective roles. Especially George Segal and Ralph Meeker as Peter Gusenberg and Bugs Moran. It was a pleasant surprise to see Bruce Dern as one of the victims and I also read that Jack Nicholson was in the movie. But I did miss him while watching and I'm not sure if I want to rewatch it just to try and spot him.

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Even though I knew dear old penny pinching Roger Corman directed it, it looks beautiful and lush. I mean, yes Roger Corman does have a habit of making a movie look more expensive than it is actually worth, but the studio had actually given him the big bucks and it shows. He has used every bit of that on screen and more. In fact, I was reading a story about how disgusted he was with the amount of money wasted on set.

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Still, there is no denying that he went all in and made sure that the movie looks and feels great. The attention to detail is evident in the actual massacre scene as it looks as accurate as possible. Especially if you compare it to the actual pictures of the event.

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Now it is understandable why the movie may not compare well to Bonnie and Clyde or The Sting (two comparable movies from around the same time also set in the depression era and considered bonafide classics). Especially the former as it came out in the same year as this movie. But as a standalone picture, it does deserve more attention than it usually receives. More so as it proves a point on what Roger Corman can actually do when given the big bucks.

Review by Alif Majeed

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