From: James Michael Rogers (
Date: 03 Aug 2009

  • Next message: Mark Sullivan: "RARA-AVIS: don't killers know how to close doors?"

    Well, I think we agree on a lot here...other than the bottom-line that I couldn't recommend the film. But, yes, you are right that the Milius movie wasn't too accurate either.

    I repectfully disagree with regards to the liklihood of Purvis killing Floyd...the "one witness" you refer to really was a "dead-eye dick" (reputedly a WW I sniper), could have easily made the shot to wound, and had no reason to lie whereas all of the other law enforcement present at the scene clearly did. Moreover, the murder of Floyd would be quite in keeping with the killing of Dillinger which some have said was in direct contravention of Hoover's own orders to apprehend him alive, if possible. Of course, none of us will ever know for sure - but that's what makes history interesting, isn't it?

    I confess that I have not yet read the Bryan Burroughs book. I will, I assure you, rectify that omission immediately.

    Nice talking to folks who remember the details so clearly that we don't have to explain it all to each other, by the way. Sincerely. But would you disagree that doing the "ugly" version of the Purvis apprehension of Floyd and Dillinger would have made a better or, if you will allow the overworked expression, more "noir" take on the story?

    As a dedicated gangster devotee, I cringe when I go to see these flicks.....I literally cringed all the way through The Untouchables, for instance. The only one that I recall seeing that made any effort at versimilitude (sp?) was the old St. Valentine's Day Massacre with James Coburn.

    Thanks for sharing your informed opinion.


      ----- Original Message -----
      From: JIM DOHERTY
      Sent: Monday, August 03, 2009 17:47
      Subject: RARA-AVIS: Re: New Film PUBLIC ENEMIES


      Re your comments below:

      "I like Mann's films, like Johnny Depp, love Marion Cotillard, and I am a raving devotee of the gangsters and the era. So I really, really expected to like this film. Unfortunately, I thought it was pretty dreadful, very inferior to John Milius's earlier movie. The digital production didn't bother me at all. The historical inaccuracies did, especially since Melvin Purvis was a fascinating figure and probably a murderer himself who deserved a more interesting treatment than he gets here. If they had filmed the ugly version of the death of Pretty Boy Floyd it would have utterly transformed the tone of the movie. One thing he was not was a good shot, though, which makes his portrayal as a sort of dead-eye dick kind of silly. The stuff about Frank Nitti is just libelous, assuming that there is anyway to defame Frank Nitti."

      I like Milius's film DILLINGER quite a lot (see my "I Like 'Em Tough" column on movies and TV shows about the FBI here:

      for my own comments on that film). And I'll even allow as it may be a better film. Certainly it's better judged on a penny-for-penny basis.

      But as for not showing the version of Floyd's death in which Purvis simply orders his murder after he's been wounded (perhaps mortally) and disarmed, I think that would have been far more egregiously wrong. While crediting Purvis as the man who personally shot down Floyd is historically inaccurate, at least it shows that Floyd was killed by law enforcement in the course of a running gun battle. That's far closer to the truth than the version suggesting that Purvis ordered Hollis to simply finish him off. There's no evidence for that other than the testimony of a single person who is refuted by virtually every other witness at the scene, local, federal, or non-law enforcement.

      Moreover, the film is based on Bryan Burroughs's copiously reserached PUBLIC ENEMIES, a non-fiction account of the FBI's "War on Crime." While Burroughs doesn't depict Purvis as the sole apprehender of Floyd, neither does he suggest that Floyd's death was a Purvis-ordered execution.

      The version the film shows is much closer to the non-fiction account Burroughs gave than the "Purvis the Murderer" version, a version that is not only refuted by other witnesses, but which nothing else in Purvis's life or career suggests he would have condoned.

      Certainly it was no more historically inaccurate than DILLINGER, and in several instances was far more accurate. And, while Christian Bale is no more a match physically for Purvis than was Ben Johnson, he's at least much closer to Purvis's actual age at the time, and his personality is probably closer to the real-life Purvis's personality than Johnson's, too, given that Purvis's sone was one of the technical advisors.

      "Worse than the inaccuracies -And Jim Doherty is right, you've just got to expect them in these movies - was the technical aspects of the production. The audio is awful, amateurish - the sound level goes up and down in a seemingly arbitrary manner. The film editing and cinematography is also pretty poor. I'm not a big fan of jerky, hand-held camera to begin with and this flick has plenty of it. It gets awfully confusing to follow the action on screen at times. Another, related , problem is that the gangsters tend to all look alike.....particula rly from a distance. It's like 'Hey! Homer Van Meter just died! Or was that Baby Face Nelson?'"

      I have to at least partically agree with your about the casting of Nelson, who looked about as "Baby-Faced" as George C. Scott. But I didn't have any trouble telling any of them apart.

      As for the audio, I had no trouble understanding it. TO me it seemed quite good. Maybe it was a case of the theatres we both saw it in having audio equipment of very different quality.

      "Marion Cotillard is a knucking fockout and might be worth the price of admission by herself. Unfortunately, she is n't given much to do."

      She had as much to do as Michelle Phillips did in DILLINGER.

      "I don't recommend it and I wish I could. Rent the old Milius movie instead."

      I certainly recommend the Milius film, but I liked Mann's version, too, and have no problem recommending them both.

      As with, say, MY DARLING CLEMENTINE (which is the best, while nevertheless being the least historically accurate, version of the "Earp in Tombstone" story) and the Kurt Russell version of TOMBSTONE, DILLINGER and PUBLIC ENEMIES are both highly entertaining, but very different, fictionalization of the same historical events.



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