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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 emerges with sharper teeth. Not much for action fans, but the dialogue is neat and pulpy and the acting exceeds most Corman-helmed outings. With the usual stagnant camera, he'd soon be a much better producer mentoring much better directors. That was his style, his niche.
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