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CORMAN DIRECTS BRONSON IN 'MACHINE GUN KELLY'

Year of Rampage: 1958 Bullet Holes: ***
There's a fine line between atmospheric and claustrophobic as Roger Corman directs Charles Bronson as the title character, MACHINE GUN KELLY. He goes from one Noir-Lit room to the next: arguing with moll Susan Cabot about robbing banks while angering his former gang, who eventually want to kill him for being so unpredictable: Kelly's either really tough or breaking down like a child. Not the narrowed, tough guy you'd get from Bronson fifteen years later....

The one bank robbery and getaway is filmed well enough, but the best scenes take place at a gas station where the owner, one of Kelly's inside men, owns a caged mountain lion that represents the fierceness building within our anti-hero — a character as unsympathetic as they come, and perhaps too unlikable for the film's own good. In an ironic turn, his humanity heightens after kidnapping a rich man's daughter, and that's when Susan Cabot who emerges with sharper teeth. Not much for action fans, but the dialogue is neat and pulpy and the acting exceeds most Corman-directed outings. With the usual stagnant camera, he'd soon be a much better producer mentoring much better directors. That was his style, niche.
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