Gangster Story (3 stars)

Gangster Story

(PG) 65min (Brightspark)

Walter Matthau had a handful of supporting roles under his belt (Bigger Than Life, A Face in the Crowd, King Creole) when he directed himself in this 1959 low-budget crime movie. But Matthau had yet to develop his trademark curmudgeon screen persona and the rather pedestrian material he was working from certainly could have benefited from it. Foreshadowing his tough turn in Charlie Varrick, Matthau plays a cop killer on the run from the law who hides out in a small town where he engineers a bank robbery that enrages the local crime boss. Shot for a measly $75,000 with a five-man non-union crew in Anaheim, California, Matthau, who thought the script was so awful he had to rewrite it every day, looks like he’s struggling with the twin responsibilities, which is possibly why he never got behind the camera again. Nevertheless, the film ended up taking more at the box office than the big budget Gary Cooper-Charlton Heston vehicle, The Wreck of the Mary Deare. No extras.

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