This is a fun B noir with plenty of violence and a chilling debut by Lawrence Tierney.
John Dillinger (Tierney) gets sent away for seven years for stealing $7.20. While in prison. he meets up with the men will teach him to aim higher, including “Specs” (Edmund Lowe), Marco Minnelli (Eduardo Ciannelli), and Kirk Otto (Elisha Cook, Jr.). When Dillinger gets out the first thing he does is to rob a movie theater cashier. The second thing is to date up the cashier. And the third is to spring his buddies from prison.
Immediately the gang goes on a bank robbery spree, with Dillinger planning the more impossible jobs. He also begins demanding his full share (Specs has been taking a double share). This does not set too well with Specs. When Dillinger again breaks out of jail, he is indisputably the boss. But the good times don’t last long and his girlfriend buys a new red dress …
This is one of those no-punches-barred tiny-budget noirs. The good performances make it a very entertaining watch. I found the commentary by John Milius (who directed Dillinger (1973)) and screenwriter Philip Yordan as interesting as the film. Milius filled us in on the true story and Yordan had some nice anecdotes about Tierney who was apparently as scary as the characters he played. All the major studies had signed a pact not to make a movie about Dillinger, Baby Face Nelson or Pretty Boy Floyd. Monogram did not, probably accounting for why this big-budget worthy material appears in such a cheapie.
Dillinger was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Writing, Original Screenplay.