Guns dont kill people, Alfonso Capone does…well at least if you were in Roger Corman’s electric vision of prohibition era Chicago. Warring mobs headed by Al Capone and George ‘Bugs’ Moran exchange tit for tat attacks. When Moran is seen to cross a line, Capone orders The Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre. This film cover the build up, murder and aftermath of a pivotal event in gangster history.
Corman’s vision of Chicago is compelling and his most accomplished. It feels rich in period detail but also achieves a sense of progress for its director. He can be seen to be exploring otherwise restricted devices. From his exceptional use of cranes, that drift through space, to his bold visual economy (one feeling as if it was gleaned from studio excess and the other from a B movie aesthetic.) Corman employs the camera as the eye of an investigative journalist, subtly extrapolating details and capturing the mobs as what they were, businesses. He also has wonderfully rich matte paintings crafted to suggest expanse (and thanks to an outstanding 4K transfer these look amazing). The production was shot on Fox’s studio lot, with the highest budget of his career (though lowest of Fox’s for that year). It all shows and I make no bones about celebrating Corman as a film maker. He is often over looked as a director with real cinematic muscle. This film not only proves that but is riverting because of it.
The disc for me is all about the film. That 4K restoration is delightful. I have seen the DVD version which looked tired and unloved. Here colour is corrected. The dark interiors are clear and finally have depth to the image. The Roger Corman remembers piece is too short (although this is made up for in the booklet.) He mentions the budget and his use of the Vonn Trapp family house as Capone’s is fascinating. The Welles information is well known but always nice to hear from the mouth of those involved. Forshaw sets the scene of picture in Corman’s work but makes it valuable by developing a discussion on the artifice of the film. How it is a documentary with distance by voice and camera. It is also peopled by Corman’s people and Corman’s constraint by studio filming. Though the omertà revenge for betrayal, knife in the groin piece is speculative, it opened my eyes. I really enjoyed the piece about Paul Free’s. Ben Ohmart interview is fun and informative, provided by someone deeply schooled. It is also an indepth piece on the man and his voices (also his star role in The Thing from another world and his film The Beatniks…Watch it!). Super 8 version is a shortened version which you no doubt know all about. The full film runs better and this truncated version is less dis arable to watch. Finally the Booklet is all excellent. Phillip French’s (Esteemed critic and film lexicon) work from his Sight and Sound work enriches viewing. It places it in political and cultural context but fails to mention George Segals riff from Cagney. Neil Sinyard piece picks up on this, as well as Corman’s other gangster work and his school of film makers riffing from him to make such works as The Godfather.
INDICATOR LIMITED EDITION SPECIAL FEATURES:
- 4K restoration from the original negative
- Original mono audio
- Roger Corman Remembers (2014, 4 mins): the director discusses the making of The St. Valentine s Day Massacre
- Scenes of the Crime (2018, 14 mins): a critical analysis by Barry Forshaw, film historian and author of American Noir
- The Man of a Thousand Voices (2018, 11 mins): a new appreciation of the great voice actor Paul Frees by Ben Ohmart, author of Welcome, Foolish Mortals: The Life and Voices of Paul Frees
- Super 8 version: original cut-down home cinema presentation
- Original theatrical trailer
- Roger Corman trailer commentary (2013, 3 mins)
- Image gallery: promotional photography and publicity material
- New and improved English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
- Limited edition exclusive 40-page booklet with a new essay by Neil Sinyard, archival interviews with Roger Corman, contemporary critical responses, and film credits
- UK premiere on Blu-ray
- Limited Edition of 3,000 copies