Ma Barker's Killer Brood (1960)




Director:  Bill Karn.

Starring:  Lurene Tuttle (Katherine Clark 'Ma' Barker),  Tristram Coffin (Arthur Dunlop), Myrna Dell (Lou, Machine Gun Kelly's Girl), Paul Dubov (Alvin Karpis), Nelson Lee (George Barker),  Victor Lundin (Machine Gun Kelly),  Don Spruance (Herman Barker),  Ron Foster (Doc Barker),  Rex Holman (Lloyd Barker),  Eric Morris (Fred Barker),  Byron Foulger (Dr. Guelffe),  Eric Sinclair (John Dillinger), Robert Kendall (Baby Face Nelson).

Supposedly the true story of Ma Barker's gang.



Spoiler Warning:  the below is a summary of the entire movie.

Katherine Clark Barker, her husband and her four sons attend church.  The boys are Herman, Doc, Lloyd and Fred.  Herman Barker plays a violin solo, while his brothers steal money from the collection plate.  Back at home, Katherine breaks the violin, saying that Herman is too much of a sissy.  Herman does not want to be involved in crime, but his mother forces him. 

The boys are sent to rob a carnival, but Herman gets caught.  His mother finds out and is furious.  She goes down to the police station and gets Herman out.  But back at home she slaps his face three times saying "Don't get caught."  Herman says to himself that he will never get caught again. 

Katherine and her husband don't agree on how to raise the kids.  He wants them to be honest, upstanding citizens, while mother wants the boys to have money and the best way to get that is through criminality.  She eventually tires of her goody-two-shoes husband and throws him out of the house. The boys successfully rob the local "Chinaman".   This is the last straw for the sheriff and he runs the Barkers out of town. 

The boys grow up to adulthood.  (Freddy is in the big house.)  They and their mother rob an armored car, killing two guards in the process.   Back in the house waits Ma's new husband, Art.  

In the big house Fred's roommate is Al Karpis, who sadistically kills a hamster in his cell, so you know he's a serious tough guy. 

Ma announces to the family that Machine Gun Kelly and his girl Lu are coming to the house to plan a kidnapping.  But when Lu tells her that a Mr. Jackson is the target, Ma breaks the bad news to her that the man has no money.  At a party given by Ma Barker, the famous bad men Baby Face Nelson and John Dillinger, along with Machine Gun Kelly, are present.  Escaped from jail, Freddy and Al are also attendees of the party. 

Herman and Doc in their car try to get away from the pursuing police, but Herman only manages to flip the car.  He tells his brother to run and when Doc is out of the car, he shoots himself in the head.  ("Don't get caught" ran through his mind.)  At the funeral, Ma Barker has the nerve to say to her first husband: "If only you had been a better father." 

Ma and the family learn that second husband Art has shot off his mouth at the local bar and now the cops are looking for Doc.  In revenge, the gang forces Art to shoot himself in the head (by making him play Russian roulette). 

The Barker gang next kidnaps a bank president.  Machine Gun Kelly and Lu show up to steal the bank president from the gang.  They get the drop on Ma, but her sons with Dillinger and Baby Face Nelson, get the drop on Kelly and Lu.  The kidnapping goes well and they return the bank president to his wife.  But the bank president remembers enough details of the car drive so that the police are able to trace the gang to their hideout. 

The gang kills the local doctor after he fails to do facial surgery on Fred Barker and botches the operation to remove his finger prints. 

Lu seduces Doc Barker to get him on Kelly's side, but the police catch Doc Barker at a motel, spoiling her and Kelly's plans. 

The police surround the Barker hide-out.  Ma and Fred are he only ones in the house and they decide to shoot it out with the police.  They kill two policemen, but in turn are killed themselves.  The remainder of the gang come to a bad end, either prison for life or dead. 


This is just an o.k. movie.  It is a B movie.  Some people like B movies.  (I knew a fellow who loved B movies: "Anybody can make a good movie; it takes real genius to make a bad one."  He loved to laugh at all the mistakes and the amateurism in these films.)  The film claims to be a true story, but it is only loosely based on the facts.  The acting was o.k.    But I had to laugh when they threw in a "dream team" of three famous criminals:  Baby Face Nelson, John Dillinger and Machine Gun Kelly. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.



Historical Background


See Bloody Mama (1970).



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