List Film

Bugsy Malone

Razamataz and splurge

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As Bugsy Malone gets a re-issue at cinemas, obsessive fan Morag Bruce and cynic Paul Dale go head to head as to the 1976 film’s relative merits.

You’ve cracked it this time Captain Schmowlski! 4 stars

Musicals are annoying. Children singing in musicals are incredibly annoying. But there’s an exception to every rule, and that exception is Bugsy Malone. Forget little orphan Annie and her macabre dimpled glee, the characters in Bugsy Malone fire their cream-firing guns, deliver one-liners and sup at the bar of the Speakeasy with as much gusto as any grown-up gangster or moll. Director Alan Parker took the genre, and with a dazzle of fantastic costumes, slapstick and aforementioned one-liners created something magical.

But back to the singing. Crucially, Parker knew he didn’t want to fob people off with limp flannels of songs so he got Paul Williams to write a superb soundtrack with tongue-in-cheek lyrics over 1920s tinkly piano and screaming brass. When the teenage Jodie Foster, Scott Baio and heck even Bonnie Langford burst into (mimed) song, the pace does not slow for one moment.

Speaking of the cast, you can play ‘oh God, it’s . . .’ a lot watching this film. Blink and you’ll miss little versions of Quadrophenia’s Phil Daniels, Press Gang’s Dexter Fletcher and even Blue Peter’s Mark Curry. Look at them - what a lot of fun they are having. If you don’t wish you could have taken part in the final ‘splurge’ in Fat Sam’s Speakeasy (shot in one take, unsurprisingly), then you are truly dead inside. Williams’ title song states that ‘Everybody loves that man - Bugsy Malone’. And so they should. (Morag Bruce)

Charlie! Yonkers! It’s a double cross! 2 stars

Despite some earlier television work Alan Parker began his moviemaking career with Bugsy Malone. This was the film that allowed him to go on and make such unspeakable bags of excrement as Fame, The Commitments and Evita. If that isn’t reason enough to consign this film to the dustbin of cinematic history, I don’t know what is.

I was nine years old when Bugsy Malone first came out. A lot of my friends at school raved about it, and if I remember right there was even a comic based on the film that we used to lend each other. I can remember not really getting the whole phenomenon but pretending that I did. The thing was I had already discovered James Cagney, Paul Muni and Humphrey Bogart in The Public Enemy, Scarface (1932) and The Roaring Twenties by sitting still for too long in front of the gogglebox. These Brylcreamed, manicured children wearing their parents' clothes just made me think of think of those pictures of dogs playing pool.

Watching Bugsy Malone now I was surprised by how creaky the whole venture is. It’s like amateur hour in the schoolyard - if only those splurge guns had had some real ammo in them.

Bugsy Malone is at GFT, Glasgow from Fri 29-Sun 31 Dec only. For the Hogmanay screening you are invited to wear Malone fancy dress and there will be prizes for the best costume.

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