The Warner Archive July 17, 2018 DVD release of the 1965 bio-noir film "Young Dillinger" is part of the recent biopics leitmotif of some new additions to the Archive catalog. These include the (reviewed) John Huston directed Paul Newman bio-western "The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean."
Nick Adams of the television series "The Rebel" stars as the titular Depression Era Public Enemy Number One who is a weak-willed young man in love when we first meet him. Former Miss America Mary Ann Mobley stars as rich girl femme fatale Elaine, who starts our boy on his life of crime before becoming his moll.
These small-town young lovers ala Jack and Diane of the John Cougar Mellencamp song of the same name are dreaming of wedded bliss when Elaine suggests robbing the safe of her father to finance their elopement and subsequent new life. Her method of persuasion includes that Daddy will not prosecute them if they get caught.
One interesting aspect of this is the ambiguity regarding the motives of Elaine. She seems more interested in escaping a privileged but dull life and in sticking one to Daddy then in becoming Mrs. Public Enemy Number One.
A reluctant Dillinger goes along; the heist hitting a snag provides him his first taste of clearly liked violence., A subsequent confrontation with a not especially peaceful justice of the peace and his brutish wife turns Dillinger into a rebel with a cause. This also leads to the first of several police chases.
The honeymoon that Dillinger and Elaine are enjoying without benefit of marriage is cut short when the cops knock at the door and begin searching for their ill-gotten booty. Doing this without benefit of a warrant or a warning illustrates how search-and-seizure requirements have evolved since that era.
Dillinger once again proves himself to be a sap in agreeing to chivalrously take the full rap for the caper. The outcome justifies adding reassurances from a dame or her old man to statements regarding a promise of help from the government and pledges of agreeing to stop before completion if provided oral gratification to the list of particularly big lies.
Dillinger soon falls in with a bad crowd, who manipulate him just as effectively as Elaine does, This leads to his facilitating a prison break and subsequently going into business with "Pretty Boy" Floyd (Robert Conrad) and "Baby Face" Nelson. By this time, Dillinger is fully feeling the effects of the literal and the figurative hard knocks he is enduring.
Wonderful camp includes Dillinger meeting the brains of the operation, This portion of the film in which the gang plans their next job clearly shows where writers of pulp fiction and B-movies of the era get their inspiration.
Even tastier cheese comes when a sleazy doctor manipulates Elaine into taking morphine so that he can receive payment-in-kind for the procedure that he is performing on an incapacitated Dillinger.
Dillinger fared better regarding having one of the best ever reasons for not putting a ring on it; this involves reminding how making an honest woman out of his partner-in-crime likely will lead to a long-distance marriage.
The brilliance of all this is that "Dillinger" use a true story of a good boy turned bad as the basis for the type of social commentary film that addresses youthful offenders and related ills. The chases and gun fights simply makes it fun for the kids.
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