Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

Strange Handling of Familiar Theme

Cleveland Press September 22, 1967

Back in the days when Warner Bros. turned out more and better gangster movies than anyone no one pretended they were anything else. Humphrey Bogart sneered and James Cagney snarled and they killed their victims without any psychological probings as to motives or any symbolic identification with well-meaning but rebellious youths.

Now from this same studio comes a gangster melodrama called "Bonnie and Clyde" and I swear someone is putting us on.

Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow were two semi-moronic types who cut a swath through the Southwest robbing banks and committing 18 murders. No two ways about it -- they were a couple of viscous people.

But shucks, they were just a couple of high spirited young 'uns according to this movie; just adventurous souls expressing themselves, yearning for thrills and freedom, just trying to make a living in the midst of hard times.

But "Bonnie and Clyde" does more than try to make glamorous figures of a couple of bums. There's an attempt at a social document -- the Great Depression and what are folks to do, etc.

And if that isn't enough they've tossed in some deep rooted psychological problems; Clyde is sexually impotent and Bonnie is a hot-blooded young thing.

THE MOVIE WAS PRODUCED by actor Warren Beatty who portrays Clyde Barrow and was directed by Arthur Penn who sprinkles the screen with several fine directorial touches. These few moments of artistic ingenuity may account for some of the critical accolades the film has received.

In total conception, however, the film does not hold up, is a mish-mash of effects, an assemblage of discordant elements.

It is a story of youth in the thirties overlaid with the philosophy of the sixties. It is an anachronism which compares them with the protectors of today who mistake irresponsibility for freedom and equate authority with tyranny.

It is good in its recapturing of a time and a place, the Southwest in the depression. Its low key color photography is skillfully used; the screen is filled with battered touring cars, desolate farms and seedy people.

But whether melodrama or social drama was intended, the mood of either is jarred by frequent burlesque touches. As Bonnie and Clyde and their gang head off to rob a bank the soundtrack is filled with music made by a plinking banjo and a hillbilly fiddle.

If Maw and Paw Kettle had suddenly appeared it would have been no surprise.

BEATTY IS LESS GIVEN to long pauses in his acting than he has been in the past. Within the framework of a not very bright character he offers a consistent performance. Faye Dunaway is too fragile in her prettiness to be the tough Bonnie Parker. Michael J. Pollard offers one of those discordant comic notes as a slow-talking, nose picking accomplice.

The crooks are all portrayed as nice people who happen to shoot other people and the lawmen are all mean and stupid

The movie, like most films today, goes overboard for violence. It is a conglomeration of sick sex, blood and gore right down to a lurid conclusion as Bonnie and Clyde meet their fate -- their bodies heaving and twitching in grotesque convulsions as they are riddled repeatedly by machine gun bullets.