Even though Roger Corman was running his independent New World studio, he had no issues working with a major studio on a film. Although when a studio dealt with Corman, they expected him to provide a high quality production with a low budget. This was a reason why he got the call. After the success of Big Bad Mama, Corman hooked up with Fox for another trip to depression era America. Instead of a small time outlaw, he went for the biggest gangster name in Capone. How did Al Capone dominate a nation’s crime syndicates? Capone gives the career ladder to the top of the underworld.
Capone (Ben Gazzara) gets tangled in a crime, but doesn’t squawk when the cops pinch him. Even when he gets his infamous scar, he won’t turn stoolie. This leads to a New York mob boss (John Cassavetes) appreciating his ability to be loyal. He gives Capone his big break with a job in his organization. Eventually Capone gets sent out to Chicago to work for Big Jim Colosimo (Frank Campanella). When Big Jim can’t see the big money in Prohibition is bootlegging, Capone takes out the weak fool. He’s a violent guy with an equally hostile right hand man in Frank Nitti (Sylvester Stallone).
While not in the same weight class as the real Capone, Gazzara is prime for the role with his ability to play a cold-hearted bastard. His glare is more frightening than any gun. He also can turn on the charm when necessary. While he’s a furious beast, Capone needed a few tender times with the ladies. There’s a grit to the film that reflects in his eyes when he goes after power. Director Steve Carver and his crew once more do a fine job capturing the time period without a massive budget. There are historical inaccuracies, but part of budget slashing is not caring if every detail is correct. This is entertainment and not a documentary. Capone is an R-rated episode of The Untouchables.
The video is 1.78:1 anamorphic. The picture is rather grainy since so much of the underworld action takes place in the dark. The audio is mono. The sound mix goes well for Ben’s voice, the bullets and Dave Grisman’s score.
Audio Commentary has director Steve Carver talking about the film with Nathaniel Thompson. There’s lots of stories about Corman’s cost cutting ways including using action clips from The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. Craver would go on to direct Gary Busey in Bulletproof.
Trailers (4:11) focuses on the rip roaring action. Lots of firepower and destruction around Ben Gazzara.
TV Spots (1:01) has one that mixes photos of the actual Capone with clips from the film.
The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre (2:31) is Corman’s epic about the gangster days with Jason Robards, George Segal and Bruce Dern.
Capone lets Ben Gazzara go full gangster on the screen. He’s able to bring both his power and charm behind the role of Al Capone. A young Stallone is perfect as his muscle. If you’ve been collecting the Roger Corman’s Cult Classics series, Capone deserves a spot on the shelf with Big Bad Mama and The Lady in Red.
Shout! Factory presents Capone. Directed by: Steve Carver. Starring: Ben Gazzara, Susan Blakely, Sylvester Stallone and John Cassavetes. Running Time: 101 minutes. Released on DVD: March 29, 2011.
Joe Corey is the writer and director of "Danger! Health Films" currently streaming on Night Flight and Amazon Prime. He's the author of "The Seven Secrets of Great Walmart People Greeters." This is the last how to get a job book you'll ever need. He was Associate Producer of the documentary "Moving Midway." He's worked as local crew on several reality shows including Candid Camera, American's Most Wanted, Extreme Makeover Home Edition and ESPN's Gaters. He's been featured on The Today Show and CBS's 48 Hours. Dom DeLuise once said, "Joe, you look like an axe murderer." He was in charge of research and programming at the Moving Image Archive.