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  Pretty Boy Floyd If Looks Could Kill
Year: 1960
Director: Herbert J. Leder
Stars: John Ericson, Barry Newman, Roy Fant, Joan Harvey, Carl York, Jason Evers, Effie Afton, Shirley Smith, Casey Peyson, Peter Falk, Al Lewis, Leo Bloom, Norman Burton, Philip Kenneally, Charles Braswell, Truman Smith
Genre: Thriller, BiopicBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Pretty Boy Floyd (John Ericson), or Charlie to his friends, is a promising boxer who is about to engage in his next fight, except that he's already fighting as the promoter is scuffling with him thanks to Charlie having an affair with his wife Gail (Casey Peyson). When his best friend and manager Al Riccardo (Barry Newman) breaks up the altercation, he is raring to go, and boxes well until the promoter cheats by putting vinegar in his water, thereby temporarily blinding Charlie when he splashes his face - he then loses the fight. But Floyd won't let something like that hold him back...

Of course, the nineteen-thirties gangster Pretty Boy Floyd was never a boxer, but there was a lot that was fabricated about this supposed biopic, which was best approached as a crime thriller that happened to be about a character who shared a name with an actual criminal. This was part of a spate of "true life" crime dramas that would reach their apex with Bonnie and Clyde a few short years later, so there was undoubtedly more to come in this style, but here perhaps the method was informed by television series that covered much the same ground.

There was even a Dragnet type of voiceover to keep us up to date on what Floyd was up to, narrating as if this were a newsreel rather than a low budget approximation of the life of a thirties gunman. Not much else spoke of authenticity, with many finding William Sanford and Del Sirino's jazz score particularly egregious as far as jarring them out of the mood of the piece went. But if there was one thing they got right in harking back to golden age gangster flicks, then it was that Warner Bros. social conscience as writer and director Herbert J. Leder took it upon himself to make it clear what circumstances led to the creation of Floyd.

Or the creation of his crime spree, at any rate, as we learn he did a spell in jail for armed robbery after his poverty got too much to bear, with his wife taking their baby and leaving him, and the prospects of finding a job dwindling thanks to his criminal record. Although he doesn't want to be a boxer, he wants to get ahead in the oil business where he is a worker, when his bosses discover what he's been keeping quiet they are forced to fire him, an act that we are intended to see as an injustice that Floyd was not able to get any chances thanks to his past mistakes - mistakes that only lead to future misdemeanours.

Characters (and character actors, for that matter) flit by Floyd's passage through life, including memorable early bits for Newman, who you think disappears early on but reappears later as the right hand man in the gang, plus a very sweaty Al Lewis as a machine gunning mobster and Peter Falk as a brief partner in crime for Charlie who is a little too fond of the bottle. But really, this was not so much a tribute to those classic gangster movies of old and more a straight run through the clich├ęs, with neither the budget nor the inclination to come up with any fresh angles, making for a rather stale exeprience for anyone except those addicted to exploitation films of this era. Ericson had a charisma for the part, but you could tell he was headed for more success on the small screen as often he found his scenes stolen by select supporting cast members. Pretty Boy Floyd was average at best for non-aficionados.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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