Dillinger (1973)

Dillinger (1973), written and directed by John Milius.

Low-budget, unromantic version of an often-told tale, kind of an economy Peckinpah. Both bank-robbers and cops are hard, rough men and we have an abundance of shootouts. Documentary-style plot with news footage of the period and some old films spliced in. No character development to speak of.

Mostly it's an excuse to see the tough guy actors of the period: Warren Oates as Dillinger, Ben Johnson as Melvin Purvis, and Harry Dean Stanton as another thug. Richard Dreyfuss doesn't quite do it as big-talking psycho Baby Face Nelson, but that's probably because we remember him from later work.

It has a good Depression look. Oklahoma gets all the location credits. Singer Michelle Phillips has an early role as Billie Frechette, Dillinger's girl.

A problem: because the gang members have the same clothes, hats and haircuts, I had a hard time tracking who was who during the action scenes.

A nice technical touch: the gang have Browning Automatic Rifles, seldom seen in movies. Hollywood has plenty of tommy guns but little else for that era.

I don't know the history well enough to judge, but the body count among the lawmen seems improbably high.

The most recent version of the story was Michael Mann's Public Enemies, where Johnny Depp was Dillinger and Christian Bale played g-man Purvis.