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ROBERT BLAKE LEADS 'THE PURPLE GANG' WITH JOSEPH TURKEL

Robert Blake in THE PURPLE GANG Year: 1960 Rating: **1/2

“The whole rhythm section was the Purple Gang,” sang Elvis Presley from his JAILHOUSE ROCK… And while roaring loose on the outside, THE PURPLE GANG keep a steady rhythm and wily pace, yet are ultimately a mere cog in a “law propaganda” wheel as an ultra serious cop, in this case Barry Sullivan’s Police Lt. William P. Harley, lets us know, right off the bat, just how bad these bad guys are and that crime doesn’t pay, and there aren’t any benefits, either.

Despite the restrictions from the late-50’s channeling 30’s gangster flicks, more than that present time’s more ambiguous Film Noirs, Robert Blake as William Joseph “Honeyboy” Willard packs a genuine machine gun wallop... 

Robert Blake in THE PURPLE GANG

For a young climber he seems already on top of his game, with an expression like he’s seen just about everything, twice, but not without an equally frightened, vulnerable underbelly. Surprisingly, given his status as lead heavy in a genre that relies on going gloriously overboard, Blake’s acting style is reserved and laidback, waiting for his moments instead of pouncing upon them: a bit more Marlon Brando than Edward G. Robinson...

Speaking of Noir, the always-hypnotic Joseph Turkel from Stanley Kubrick’s THE KILLING (and then PATH’S OF GLORY and THE SHINING) heads a more established yet less lethal and ambitious syndicate that Blake’s boys merge with, and who Sullivan narrowly tracks while doubting his existence as a cop in a town so gritty, which the movie needed to be...

Robert Blake and Joe Turkel in THE PURPLE GANG

With such nefarious potential centering on cutthroat gangsters, PURPLE GANG could have really soared instead of attempting to punch holes through a proverbial steel box that, like already mentioned, warns us from the onset how the titular boys aren’t worth rooting for, or against...

So when Bobby Blake isn’t firing bullets, it’s up to a handful of montage sequences, including actual archive footage, showing the GANG in destructive, gun-toting action to counter the preachy narration. But after a while, the thugs get lost in that “news reel” shuffle: A shame since this movie was supposed to belong to them.

Robert Blake and Joe Turkel in THE PURPLE GANG
Joe Turkel and Barry Sullivan in THE PURPLE GANG
Robert Blake in THE PURPLE GANG
Robert Blake and Marc Cavell in THE PURPLE GANG

 

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