January 28, 2012 6 Min Read

Review by: Christopher Bligh

Plot: What’s it about?

These days, the name Lawrence Tierney points to two things. He was the voice of the head of security that caught Bart shoplifting on a holiday episode of “The Simpsons” and as Joe, the boss of the multi-colored Mr’s in Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs. What a lot of filmgoers under the age of 30 don’t know is that he started out in the 1940s and it all started on a B film chronicling highlights in the life of the famous public enemy #1 known as Dillinger.

Another heist is pulled off by the gang and the audience sees the lights come up. A man, claiming to be the father of one John Dillinger, tells how his John grew up and left home to be a successful “broker”. When we meet him grown up, John (Lawrence Tierney) is learning what he can in the state penitentiary where he encounters the men who will in future be part of his bunch. With all his men, Dillinger conducts a series of bank robberies but sees that his cut is a cut less than he deserves. He stands to be the head of everyone but not if the police don’t catch him first.

It’s remarkable to see Lawrence Tierney in a time when he had hair and he gives a superb performance as Dillinger being a cool calm and collected man who can be set off by the wrong fuse and is not afraid to pull the trigger at ones that cross the wrong path of him.

Most of the supporting cast is there for background and part of the heists he pulls off, including one unusual but effective robbery that has a lot of boom to it. It’s easy to see the cheapness of the production from the many uses of stock footage and footage from other films of that era put in for story advancement.

The funny thing about Dillinger is that from the credits it looks like it could’ve easily been mistaken for a horror picture with it’s standard score, the big letters and the rain with the thunder and lightning to the name DILLINGER.
along with the extra lightning to the names in the production as well.

It does have an unusual narrative but one that’s not difficult to follow but it also has a lot of holes and it does feel abbreviated. Nevertheless, Dillinger can be appreciated if only for the performance of Lawrence Tierney who is practically in the entire film both physically and mug-shotingly and it remains fairly straight forward and average film noir fare.

Video: How does it look?

Dillinger is shown full frame and there are scenes that have a decent amount of clarity. However, the entire film is full of a lot of print shakes, lots of white specks and occasional print splices throughout the picture. It’s decent for the age of the film (60 years to be exact) and it’s understandable that a print like this would look like this being that it was a very small production. But overall, the print is passable but this reviewer has seen worse with black and white TV looking more shoddy than this transfer. Key moments of clarity but overall a lot of debris.

Audio: How does it sound?

The Dolby Digital mono track is the best that this time can do with the time restrictions and no advancement audibly as most of the score and the dialogue can be heard with very few cracks and with the dialogue understandable without much raising of the volume. However most of the activity comes from the center channel and has a muted feel. Overall, it fares better than the print of the film itself. This disc also has English, French and Spanish subtitles.

Supplements: What are the extras?

Dillinger gets the two bits of extras treatment and it starts with a commentary from director John Milius who helmed the 1973 Dillinger picture and he is joined in spurts and excerpts by screenwriter Phillip Yordan who was nominated for an Oscar for his efforts. His inclusions every once in a while are amusing and compares a bit with his version of the Dillinger story and keeps track of facts and phoniness in the story as well as the informative inclusions of Yordan going into more of the production of the film. A good track from both

Finally, there is the film’s theatrical trailer in all it’s full frame glory and shows how decent the print transfer turned out in comparison to the trailer and what it originally was.

Dillinger gives this viewer an itching to watch Milius’ version to kind of see where the holes are filled from this story as this 1945 version makes for a good showcase of Lawrence Tierney and tries some unusual narrative choices but in the end turns up averagely entertaining.

Disc Scores