Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

"Grissom Gang" is Mediocre Gore

Cleveland Press September 16, 1971

Robert Aldrich, producer-director of such things as "Dirty Dozen," "The Killing of Sister George" and "What Ever Happened to Baby Jane," does not have a reputation for delicacy.

Nothing in "The Grissom Gang" will change his image.

Seldom has any movie had more gratuitous gore, more simple-minded sadism or more mediocre melodrama. This gangster drama set in the 1930's outdoes "Bonnie and Clyde" in mayhem with far less reason and virtually no artistry.

The story is set in Kansas during the depression. Local heiress Kim Darby is kidnapped by a couple of amateur hoodlums for the diamond necklace she is wearing and her escort is murdered. She is kidnapped a second time by the rival Grissom gang, this time with a million dollar ransom as the motive.

The Grissoms are mean, mean, mean. They just cut, shoot and clobber people for the joy of it.

Meanest of all is Ma (Irene Daily), the brains of the outfit, who reasons that kidnappings go wrong because the victim is left alive. Simple way to make it go right -- kill the victim.

The trouble is that one son, the psychopathic one (Scott Wilson), has a yen for the girl.

He keeps her alive and in exchange she has to be very, very nice to him.

Around the edges of all this are several other characters -- Robert Lansing as a heavy drinking, cynical private eye who is the nearest thing to a nice guy the movie has to offer, and Wesley Addy as the girl's father who figures that if his daughter has suffered the proverbial fate worse than death, then why didn't she die rather than shame the family name?

Connie Stevens also appears in a grotesque get-up and even more grotesque performance as a nightclub singer who keeps bad company.

Miss Darby's is the most effective performance and Scott Wilson's would have been equally good if he hadn't been allowed to wallow in it. Color the others lurid, about as lurid as the gurgling, bloody bodies that keep falling all over the place.