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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
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Kim Darby is terrific in dramatic role!Sept. 30 2011
betty l. dravis
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This is an overlooked movie, in my opinion; one that I wanted to view simply to see Kim Darby playing a more mature role than her "adorable" teen role in True Grit (Special Collector's Edition) opposite the iconic actor John Wayne. When the new version of "True Grit" was released it brought back memories of Darby and aroused my curiosity about how she looked and acted at an older age.
A friend told me about The Grissom Gang, raving over Kim's acting abilities and I had to see for myself.
Yes! Yes! Yes! Darby is excellent in the role of a snooty society girl who is kidnapped by a gang of petty hoodlums with Ma Grissom as the very cruel mother and leader of the gang of three brothers. She treats the "spoiled little rich girl" brutally and would have killed her if it weren't that her youngest (and favorite) son Slim develops a big crush on Darby's character, Barbara Blandish. Slim is simple-minded and easily manipulated by Barbara--who doesn't fool old Ma for a second--which adds to the plot's complexity.
The Grissom Gang are amateurs compared to a more professional crew who thwart their plans. In addition to Darby's excellent acting, Scot Wilson is great in the role of Slim Grisson, Connie Stevens is realistic as the dumb gangster "moll," and Tony Musante is vicious as the leader of the pro gang. But Irene Dailey plays the cold-blooded Ma Grissom to perfection; she made me cringe with fear and disgust.
This is not your typical gangster film, but is important to the genre because Director Robert Aldrich had a flair for directing hard-edged films that were violent, accurately portraying the underbelly side of human nature. This film, set in the poor Mid-Western region during the Depression, captures the realism of those times: poverty, greed, lust are displayed in black-and-white realism.
Definitely not a classic, but well worth the cost of the "used" DVD that I purchased...if only to see Darby as a woman and glimpse Aldrich at his best.
I would say NOT recommended for teens except that nowadays with an abundance of horror and vampire flicks, this would not frighten them at all.
Endnote: Kim Darby is my Facebook friend and she always answers comments. A real down-to-earth woman who grew into a great beauty.
Reviewed by Betty Dravis, September 30, 2011 Author of "Dream Reachers" series of books (with Chase Von)
"Grissom Gang" Not Entirely SuccessfulDec 12 2012
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Whatever were Robert Aldrich's intentions with his 1971 "The Grissom Gang" it is uncertain if it were a gritty gangster film or a black comedy, it is not entirely successful as anything. I have seen largely many of Aldrich's films and he has not missed ever with me to make entertaining yet heavy-handed and often very funny movies. After "The Grissom Gang" he would still make "Emperor of the North" (another piece where sadism reigns) and "The Longest Yard" perhaps his most successful movie since "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?" and "The Dirty Dozen." "The Grissom Gang" was based on the controversial book, "No Orchids for Miss Blandish" by James Hadley Chase with a script by Leon Griffiths and a re-make of its 1948 British film version. The acting which features Kim Darby and Scott Wilson (previously one of the no-name stars playing one of the killers in Richard Brooks' film version of "In Cold Blood") is generally good. Darby is very good, but Wilson gives one hell of a performance despite Aldrich's lack of sympathy for the relationship of those two characters when I think he should have played some of the emotions Wilson reaches with Darby and Tony Musante and Irene Dailey (as "Ma Grissom," a performance that also stands out with bravura) for seriousness which would have given the film a tenderness they seem to need that Aldrich may have been incapable of. Dailey's insane hysterical laughter while spraying her machine gunfire is typical of his bit of a lark while reeling in the sadism. But she is a good menace. To laugh at Wilson is not in the humanely best interest of his character's purpose. Connie Stevens in another supporting role does not come off as well and she would have her characterization of "Scorchy" still to come in her career. The movie does not have the slam dunk ending that Aldrich usually invents for his pictures and the film ultimately is unsatisfying. And it was poorly lit, almost too bright and garish, the blood looked orange and there was too excessive use of glycerin for sweat. Kim Darby had too many scenes where great drops of it dripped off her and you could not tell her real tears for it sometimes, that is too distracting and underplays her when she had the advantage.
APPEARANCES ARE DECEIVINGAug. 25 2011
FRED C. DOBBS
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About a gang that kidnaps a rich guy's daughter for ransom. Initially she's picked up by a motley group of local thugs going for their once-in-a-lifetime big score. However, they're intercepted by a gang of real pros who eliminate them and take the gal. The gang is determined to kill their captive after picking up the ransom, but a small problem arises when one of the boys falls for the young woman.
The vastly underappreciated and always-excellent character actor Scott Wilson [IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT and IN COLD BLOOD, both 1967] delivers a tour de force, playing the mentally limited, inexperienced but psychopathic member hit with the love bug. Another terrific performance by Kim Darby [TRUE GRIT, 1969] as the snooty socialite, Barbara Blandish, who stays alive only because Wilson, as Slim Grissom, has his first crush. The gang's leader and brains, however, is Slim's mom, a Ma Barker-type played superbly and with gusto by Irene Dailey [daytime soap ANOTHER WORLD, 1964]---she wants the girl dead. Tony Musante [THE DETECTIVE, 1968, and who can forget his riveting performance in the cult classic, THE INCIDENT, 1967], Ralph Waite [yep, Papa Walton in the classic TV series, THE WALTONS, 1972-1981 BUT a fabulous bad guy: TROUBLE MAN and CHATOS LAND, both 1972] and comic Joey Faye round up the rest of the group. Director Robert Aldrich throws some curves our way perfectly casting Connie Stevens as the annoying, bigmouth, empty-headed showgirl who spills the beans and, thus, gets hers. Nice seeing vet Robert Lansing [who can forget the great TWILIGHT ZONE episode, The Long Morrow, 1964] as a private detective hired to find the gang and the gal. Wesley Addy [also in Aldrich's noir cult classic KISS ME DEADLY, 1955] plays the kidnapped girls dad.
The film's most paralyzing moment occurs when Slim confronts Ma Grissom after finding out the gang's plans to get rid of the dame. He holds a knife within inches of the old lady's face insisting that the girl is not to be harmed, the teak-tough Ma having to back down or become history. The young woman is now imprisoned in the hideaway's upstairs bedroom with only Slim having cart blanch access. Her survival depends upon her ability to assuage her lovelorn captor. Darby is marvelous, having to adapt and concede quickly, feigning affection, drinking her pain away, becoming confused---and she looks better with each scene. Can't believe this was the same tomboyish kid we saw in TRUE GRIT, exuding a sensuality few probably thought she had---an outstanding performance. Her diatribe calling Slim a "half-wit..cretin", with the latter running to his mom, is a riot.
Eventually the cops close in and the gang wiped out in a wild gunfight. Slim and Ms Blandish avert the massacre but become holed up in a barn only to be surrounded by cops who are tipped off by locals looking for reward money. It is here that Slim decides to leave his captive and face the cops alone---realizing that she has to go back home and certainly ensuring that she wouldn't be harmed by the restless and reckless cops. No hostage negotiation team here as Slim steps out and, sure enough, is blasted into oblivion. Daddy dearest shows up but is embarrassed by his daughter's public display of emotion for her fallen captor, walking away without even a hug, showing no affection for his little girl.
Funny how the only person in this film who came close to doing his job right was the presumably dysfunctional Slim, taking care of and protecting Ms Blandish with certitude and forethought. This in contrast to the ineptitude of everybody else consumed by self interest, especially the film's two symbols of rectitude: the law---guilty of wanton recklessness with cops posing for the papers and killing everybody in sight, including Slim's murder-by-cop; the father---guilty of abandonment and narcissism. Interesting, how the self-interested often wind up with nothing. Nice black comedy by Aldrich dealing with the delusion of appearances and roles, the pervasiveness of human corruption, the often nebulous and unreliable distinction between the good and the bad.
Without resorting to violence in his encounters with Ms Blandish, with attempts at self-improvement, at gratification and demonstrating self-sacrifice at the end, Slim was hardly a born psychopath but rather a slow and misguided man-child who succeeded where the users, egomaniacs and robots in Ms Blandish's world could not---in loving her naturally, without condition or prejudgement.
High-impact Abduction DramaMay 17 2011
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I put off watching The Grissom Gang because I'd read it was just a shoot-em-up gangster movie without a lot of nuance; and that whenever the character-driven dramatic element started to get interesting Aldrich would crank up the gratuitous violence, etc.
Having watched it I can say it's a thoroughly engaging film full of high-drama and big characters. The performance of Scott Wilson, here in the full bloom of youth, is riveting: disturbing and ultimately heart-breaking. Kim Darby (as Barbara Blandish), despite one of the worst hair-cuts in film history, is comparably excellent. The two of them together generate real fireworks. O'Donnell and Granger come to mind, but their chemistry pales compared to the sparks that fly between Darby and Wilson.
Wilson never had the career he deserved. My first exposure to him was in Clayton's The Great Gatsby, in which he played the man who avenges his wife's (Karen Black) manslaugher. Few ever did anguished desperation as compellingly as Scott Wilson. Brad Douriff and John Savage come to mind.
As for the look of the film--it does sport one of the ugliest and period-inappropriate interiors ever. It's gaudiness is previewed by earlier typically mod color miscoordinations (hues of green abutting improbable shades of purple-pink). It's so outrageously ugly I actually turned off the color for a while. Hard to understand why Aldrich, not known for subtlety, chose such jarring tones. Perhaps it was his way of setting his film apart from the tastefully worn-out, vintage palette of Penn's trend-setting Bonnie and Clyde.
Thankfully, the performances absorb most of our attention. Ultimately the test of a great film is its capacity to engage us and to make us care about the characters. In this Aldrich completely succeeds. He has crafted a piece of entertainment that in its often feverish intensity feels bigger than life without feeling overly theatrical. So there may very well be an element of genius in the mix.
That is not to say the film does not have problems. The scene between the father and the detective just before the finale could have been jettisoned. At that point we're totally invested in the fate of Slim and Barbara and the dramatic flow should have been allowed to take its course as the peripheral characters faded into the background. It sort of ruins the ending.
With the exception of an outdoor scene about 18 minutes in the transfer is pleasingly crisp.
Barley okay.March 6 2015
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And it is just barely okay. coming to us from 1971, this heist/kidnap movie could have been pretty good but for a couple things. Ma Grissom with her over the top bad acting and mustache as if that means country? and Kim Darby, just a really bad actress anytime. Robert Aldrich who did the dirty dozen, a fav of mine, seemed to have lost a step here. Rich girl gets accidentally kidnapped (all they wanted was a $50,000 necklace she wears) then she gets kidnapped from those kidnappers by the Grissoms. I enjoyed Scott Wilson as the simple-minded Slim Grissom and Tony Musante as his more worldly (in his mind anyway) brother. There are 2 other brothers too. so, slim falls in weird love with her, wants to keep her, Ma wants to kill her once they get the ransom. Blah, Blah. Stockholm syndrome etc.