Rare disaster from director Don Siegel. Mickey Rooney is woefully miscast as the legendary gangster. He and Carolyn Jones as lovers is beyond laughable. Sir Cedric Hardwicke as a gangland doctor is just asinine. Van Alexander’s pseudo 1950’s attempt at a Crime Jazz soundtrack doesn’t have a note that fits the 1933-34 time period. To describe this movie as horrible would be way too complimentary. Even a number of good character actors can’t save this mess.
Lester Gillis (Mickey Rooney) is out of prison thanks to mobster Rocca (Ted de Corsia). He asks him to bump off a union organizer. Lester refuses. Rocca says it’s okay and gets him a hotel room. That night he goes to visit his girlfriend Sue (Carolyn Jones). She’ll go to his hotel room when she gets off work. He sees a newspaper headline about the union organizer being murdered
Back at the room he hears a knock. It’s the cops. They find a gun taped to the toilet tank. It’s the murder weapon. Rocca framed him. Thanks to help from Sue, Lester escapes from the cops. The two get married and she tells him to start using the name Nelson. He gets revenge and kills Rocca and some of his boys.
During a robbery Nelson is wounded. Sue takes him to a sanitarium in the country to see Doc Saunders (Sir Cedric Hardwicke). He hooks up with one of his patients, John Dillinger (Leo Gordon). He nicknames Nelson, Baby Face. During a payroll robbery a factory whistle goes off. Nelson freaks and opens up with his Tommy gun and kills some guards. Dillinger isn’t happy.
The movie takes thirty seconds to go over Dillinger and the lady in red. FBI agent Samuel Parker (John Hoyt) now puts Nelson as number one on the Most Wanted list. Nelson is almost caught in a raid led by FBI agent Charles Bonner (Dabs Greer). Bonner is killed and Nelson and Sue get away.
He calls Fatso Nagel (Jack Elam). Fatso plans bank jobs. Nelson’s gang is getting annoyed with him. That includes Homer van Meter (Elisha Cook,Jr.). That legendary character was the subject of a number of movies and TV episodes.
On the bank job Nelson kidnaps the manager Mr.Hall (George E.Stone). Out on the road he lets him go because they’re both the same small size. Agent Parker gets Fatso to fake a job for Nelson. If he refuses he’ll spend the rest of his life in Alcatraz. Nelson falls for it. During the robbery Baby Face has a surprise up his sleeve.
Of all the gangster movies I’ve seen with big names associated with it, this is the absolute worst.