Machine-Gun Kelly (1958)

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Released 24-May-2005

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Audio
Audio-Only Track-Interview With Samuel Z Arkoff
Trailer-Avalanche, Saint Jack, Forty Guns, Grand Theft Auto
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1958
Running Time 83:26
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Roger Corman
American Int Picture
Umbrella Entertainment
Starring Charles Bronson
Susan Cabot
Morey Amsterdam
Richard Devon
Jack Lambert
Frank DeKova
Connie Gilchrist
Wally Campo
Barboura Morris
Ted Thorpe
Lori Martin
George Archambeault
Robert Griffin
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $19.95 Music Gerald Fried

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures Yes
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    George "Machine-Gun" Kelly (Charles Bronson) commits, with the aid of his gang, a bank robbery during which he guns down a security guard. After an elaborate escape with the assistance of his girlfriend Flo (the ill-fated Susan Cabot), he settles down to a life of locking horns with his gang members. Kelly is a wimp, afraid of death and only confident of himself with men who don't fight back or when he has a gun in his hands.

    Flo is ambitious and talks Kelly into making a big score by kidnapping the child of a wealthy businessman. But Kelly's demons and the greed of Flo and the gang bring everything unstuck.

    Perhaps the first film to bring Roger Corman to prominence, this gangster film set in the 1930s starts out well but then goes slowly downhill. It is not very well paced and there simply is not enough action or suspense to maintain interest. Aside from that, the story is fanciful and apart from the real-life Kelly being afraid of death and somewhat cowardly, and his career being brought to an end after a kidnap (of a businessman, not his daughter), there is little resemblance to reality. The real Machine-Gun Kelly never shot anyone, and perhaps fearing a lawsuit Kelly's wife and inspiration Kathryn was recreated as the fictional Flo.

    There are some elements of interest in the film. This was one of Bronson's first starring roles and he is quite good. Also, as an attempt to understand the psychology of a killer it was ahead of its time. I'm not sure if Corman and writer R. Wright Campbell were deliberately trying to subvert the usual portrayals of criminals, with Kelly coming across as fairly normal in his reactions, while the rest of the gang, plus Flo's brothel-keeping horror of a Ma (Connie Gilchrist), being as hard-boiled as they come. Perhaps the low budget did not run to character development for anyone but the central protagonist. In any case this is a tough but ultimately only slightly rewarding film.

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Transfer Quality


    The film is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 and is not 16x9 enhanced. According to the IMDb, the original aspect ratio was 2.35:1. I saw this film in 35mm at the Chauvel Cinemas in 1993 and while my recollections are not always accurate, I am quite sure that this film was projected at 1.37:1. In any case, I did not notice any evidence of cropping on this DVD, so I think the IMDb might be wrong.

    The video transfer is quite good but not quite perfect. The video is sharp and clear, with as much detail as you would need to have an undistracted viewing experience. Contrast levels are good and there is a satisfactory range of grey scales on offer, with dark blacks and relatively clean whites.

    Some artefacts are visible, such as mild aliasing which appears throughout. There is also some moiré on car grilles. There are few film artefacts, with dirt and white flecks visible from time to time. The transfer seems to be an NTSC to PAL conversion, with some ghosting evident. It is not serious in my opinion, but some may find this unacceptable. However, there is no native NTSC alternative as far as I can tell.

    The disc is single layered and there are no subtitles.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    The audio does not fare quite as well as the video. The sole audio track is Dolby Digital 2.0 mono.

    Dialogue is clear throughout, and I had no trouble understanding any of it. However, there is some distortion to the audio. Apart from a lot of sibilance, the audio sounds constricted in the upper ranges which results in distortion. At a reasonable volume level the audio is slightly uncomfortable to listen to.

    The music score by Gerald Fried fares somewhat better. It's a jazzy score sounding very much of the period. It suffers less from the distortion, and more from overuse in the soundtrack.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


Main Menu Audio

    Some audio from the soundtrack can be heard over the static main menu.

Audio-Only Track-Interview With Samuel Z Arkoff (50:46)

    This is a talk given by the film's producer, apparently in England, about his career in general. Some mention is made of the film on this disc. For some reason the whole thing ends abruptly with Arkoff cut off in mid-sentence.

Trailers-Avalanche, Saint Jack, Forty Guns, Grand Theft Auto (9:53)

    Trailers for other Umbrella releases.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The film seems to be available only in the UK at the moment, and the Region 2 version seems to be identical to the Region 4 version apart from a different selection of trailers. No mention is made of audio problems.


    Worth seeing if you are a fan of movies about 1930s gangsters, or of Roger Corman's oeuvre. Or of Bronson for that matter. Others may find this dull.

    The video quality is good.

    The audio quality is not so good.

    A small selection of extras.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Sunday, July 03, 2005
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony 86CM Trinitron Wega KVHR36M31. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player, Dolby Digital, dts and DVD-Audio. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationSony TA-DA9000ES
SpeakersMain: Tannoy Revolution R3; Centre: Tannoy Sensys DCC; Rear: Richter Harlequin; Subwoofer: JBL SUB175

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Just a note on the aspect ratio -