Director: Roger Corman
Runtime: 100 minutes
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre takes a docudrama-like approach to the escalating Chicago gang war between Al Capone (Jason Robards) and George Clarence “Bugs” Moran (Ralph Meeker) in the late 1920s, which would climax with a notorious massacre on Valentine’s Day. Historical accuracy trumps concern for the audience’s ability to follow every single character and deed here.
One of the most notable aspects of this mob movie is its pervasive narration. Almost every semi-important character is given an introduction…one that sometimes spoils whether they will die during the film’s runtime or not. Still, the narration keeps the motion picture from being too difficult to follow, helping the viewer keep track of the plentiful characters (most of whom don’t really make much of an impression, unfortunately).
The film probably could’ve used a stronger overarching plot, as it sometimes feels like a series of scenes depicting underworld activities or action/violence that could’ve been arranged in just about any order. However, the movie is anchored by a wonderfully hammy performance from Jason Robards as mob boss Al Capone, and there are some nice period details. Bullets fly relatively regularly to prevent the audience from nodding off.
This certainly isn’t the strongest movie about organized crime ever made, but it’s better than being merely watchable. There are bland characters here (although Robards’ Capone isn’t one of them), yet it’s overall entertaining enough to be worth recommending. Released the same year as fellow gangster saga Bonnie and Clyde (1967), The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre isn’t quite as boundary-pushing as that classic, but it still might’ve played a minor role in blowing the lid off of the Hollywood Production Code. Mob movie fanatics will probably enjoy it.
My rating is 7 outta 10.