Wednesday, June 14, 2017

MOOM PITCHER REVIEW! THE PURPLE GANG starring Barry Sullivan and Robert Blake! (Allied Artists, 1959)

Prob'ly/undoubt'ly because of the success of THE UNTOUCHABLES (but I dunno) during the v. late-fifties these nostalgic twennies gangster mooms were starting to come out faster than you can say fanabla! And as far as these nostalgic twennies gangster mooms go you can't do better'n this little quickie. Sure THE PURPLE GANG was about as historically accurate as THE THREE MUSKETEERS starring the Ritz Brothers and Don Ameche, but ya gotta admit that it sure packs a whole lotta real deal wallop into its black 'n white universe and for once doesn't leave you feeling as if you're being handed yet another cheap do-gooder lesson from the same pack of people who pass ten-year-old upcoming stars of tomorrow around like they're swapping baseball cards'r somethin'.

Barry Sullivan plays the cop out to crack the Purples, they being a buncha Detroit street kids who are definitely bound for bigger 'n better things inna crime rackets. Robert Blake plays Honey Boy Willard, the leader of the Purples who's an insane genius not as crazed as Cagney was in WHITE HEAT but whacked out enough to get you up and rootin' for him. Sullivan is one tough caga for sure, but boy is he having troubles bringing down these kids who seem to have the upper hand all over the place...either that or the gendarmes are stoopid beyond belief the way they fall flat on their faces at every turn.

Of course these two are merely part of a cast of thousands, or at least enough people to make you wanna get a program to keep track of who's who. One of my faves just happens to be Henry "Hank" Smith played by Marc Cavall, Honey Boy's close sidekick who not only kinda looks like a cross between Arto Lindsay and Brad Kohler but eventually turns on the gang when his conscience starts to pang away. Fortunately Hank just happens to get caught by Honey Boy right when he's about to deliver an important message to the fuzz, and thankfully this snitch gets his just rewards by being encased alive in cement and wooshed into the river. And he was such an endearing character too!

Theres violence galore in this 'un with loads of gang wars, assassinations and surprise ambushes that would teach today's terrorists a thing or two about how to get the job done. It's the same formula that worked in many similar films to the point where MAD spoofed it so efficiently, and with all of the blasting away and tension-packed violence (my fave being the scene where Sullivan's knocked up wife flips out when the Purps invade her bedroom and in her madness she smashes through the window falling to her death) you can just see the Werthams and other touchy-feelies of this world rampaging in righteous indignation over mooms such as this, demanding their outright banning in favor of less violent and more nurturing entertainment for our populace. And since they've been doing just that for the last fiftysome years you can thank them for the massive drop in real life blood 'n guts splatterings we've seen in this rainbow-infested kumbaya world we know and love today!

And speaking of do-gooder types, there's one in this film who's an altruistic social worker type pleading with Sullivan not to harm any of the underaged delinquents who are getting manhandled by the cops. Poetically enough she is eventually raped and murdered by one of 'em which I gotta admit sent a nice feeling up and down my digestive system just like it did the time some NYU student who once wrote a letter to some magazine about how great a place Harlem is to hang out was chased into the streets by a pack of teenagers there ultimately getting hit by a car and dying in the very same place he considered friendly and safe. Steve Ditko couldn't have done a better job presenting this potent slice of poetic justice where the starry eyed eventually end up seeing a whole skyfulla 'em right before check out time!

A refreshing change from the typical nicey-nice, though really don't you think that this film is somewhat skewered in its presentation of what is right and wrong? I still tend to root for the bootleggers, dope peddlers and pussy pushers that pop up in mooms such as this if only because these guys, no matter how snaggletoothed they may seem, are merely businessmen selling product that the public WANTS. If it weren't for stoopid pieces of legalese like the Volstead Act more Amerigans woulda been enjoying their booze without the fear of incarceration or blindness for that matter, and for the heck of me why are people so concerned with the addictive states of people in this world as if everybody who is up and pumping need to be held by shackles they never asked for inna first place. Maybe they should make a twennies gangster film where the likes of Capone and Lansky are seen as heroic businessmen trying to fill a demand in the market and the cops and social engineers who created this mess in the first place are the down and dirty jerks needing to be taken care of---I'd stand in line all night to see a moom pitche like that!

1 comment:

rnigma said...

First thing coming to mind is Jailhouse Rock... "The whole rhythm section was the Purple Gang!"