St. Valentine's Day Massacre (1967)

 

 

 

Director:  Roger Corman. 

Starring:  Jason Robards (Al Capone), George Segal (Peter Gusenberg), Ralph Meeker (Bugs Moran), Jean Hale (Myrtle), Clint Ritchie (Jack McGurn), Frank Silvera (Sorello), Joseph Campanella (Wienshank), Richard Bakalyan (John Scalise), David Canary (Frank Gusenberg), Bruce Dern (May), Harold J. Stone (Frank Nitti), Kurt Kreuger (James Clark), Paul Richards (Charles Fischetti), Joe Turkel (Jake Guzik), Milton Frome (Adam Heyer).

Mass murder of a group of unarmed bootlegging gang members in Chicago. The bloody incident dramatized the intense rivalry for control of the illegal liquor traffic during the Prohibition Era in the United States and came to symbolize the violence of the Prohibition Era in Chicago.

 

 

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

Good movie.  Feb. 14, 1929.  The story begins at the time of the St. Valentine's Massacre and then proceeds with the story in flashback. 

1929.   It's the age of the black bottom (an early jazz dance), the first non-stop flight from Paris to London, and the beginning of the Great Depression following the stock market crash.  It is also the age of gangsters.  In Chicago there are some 21,207 speak easies; the gangsters pull in about $357 million dollars; and 618 gangsters were killed in the previous nine years.

The movie introduces most of the men killed in the St. Valentine's Day Massacre, so we know them by the time they are killed: they are not just so many anonymous names.  Most of the dead are members of the Irishman Bugs Moran's "North Side Gang."   The murderers were from the Capone gang. 

The action begins with two brothers from the Moran gang, Peter and Frank Gusenberg, shaking down a manager of a speak-easy.  Then Frank fails in his attempt to kill Machine Gun Jack McGurn, top trigger man for Capone.

At a meeting of the Capone gang, we meet:  1) Charles "The Fixer" Fischetti  --  the man who corrupts the politicians and public officials; 2) Jake "Greasy Thumb" Guzik  --  responsible for bootlegging sales; Frank "The Enforcer" Nitti  -- head of the punishment squad. Capone is very angry about Moran's recent moves against him and his gang and he wants Moran dead. 

Then we get to meet or learn about some more of the men associated with the Moran gang:  1) Joe Aiello  -- who Moran wants to bring in as a partner; 2) German Albert R. Gotchalak (?spelling), Moran's brother-in-law and #2 in the North Side Gang; and John May, the auto mechanic for the gang. 

Between the two gangs of bad men, it is a matter of who will strike first. 

The Moran gang strikes first by killing Patsy De Lolordo of the Mafia and a close Capone associate.   (Capone had even warned Patsy about his possible demise.)  The Gusenberg brothers and Aiello do the job.  When Capone learns of the death, he is very upset and says : "I'll kill Aiello."   Capone himself strikes back by knocking Aiello out on a train and then castrating him with a barber's razor.

But the big pay-off for Capone is to be the elimination of Bugs Moran himself.   A man with no criminal record, Sorello, is recruited by Machine Gun Jack McGurn to sell stolen whiskey to the Moran gang.  Sorello is roughed up a little in the first exchange, which provides him with an excuse to ask Moran to appear at the warehouse himself in order to guarantee his (Sorello's) safety.  The Capone man setting up the kill is McGurn.  Two Mafia members, Albert Anselmi and John Scalise, are the main men with four other gangsters unknown in Chicago.  Some of the men will dress like cops and will pretend they are raiding the Moran warehouse. 

The men who gather in the warehouse are John May, Pete and Frank Gusenberg, Albert Gotchalak, Reinhart Schwimmer, Adam Hier and Albert Wienshank.  Bugs Moran and his two body guards are supposed to be there but they are running late.  The Capone spotters think that Albert Wienshank is Moran and give the signal for the ruse to begin.  As Moran is walking to the warehouse he sees the fake police car drive up and some police get out.  He and his men turn around and go into a diner for some coffee.  The Capone men line the 7 Moran guys up against the wall and then gun them down. 

The murders are a sensation.  The public is maddened over the massacre and they bring open gang warfare to an end. 

The movie says that all four murderers involved in the actual shooting would die from violence within 19 months.

Anselmi and Scalise are killed by Al Capone wielding a baseball bat after he learns that the two hit-men were planning to kill him and take over his gang.  Boris Chapman is killed during a robbery attempt of a St. Louis jewelry store.  Adolph Muller's body is found in a pond 12 miles south of Joplin, Missouri. 

Machine Gun Jake McGurn was murdered in a Chicago bowling alley in 1936. 

Al Capone dies in his sleep in prison (his body wracked by syphilis) in 1947.

Bugs Moran dies of lung cancer during a ten year prison sentence in 1957. 

 

With so many characters to follow, the movie feels a little crowded with too many people to keep track of.  But it was all worth it, because the seven dead men of the massacre are no longer strangers when they are killed.  Jason Robards does not look like Capone, but he was very good in the role.  Jack Nicholson is very briefly seen in two glimpses.  He is the fellow talking about putting garlic on the bullets to make sure the victims die. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

 

 


Historical Background:

 

see Al Capone (1959).

 

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