A Bullet For Pretty Boy (1970)


A Bullet for Pretty Boy (15 July 1970)
American International Pictures

Director: Larry Buchanan (Mars Needs Women 1967)
Writers: Enrique Touceda, Henry Rosenbaum
Music: Harley Hatcher (The Wild Angels 1966)
Starring: Fabian Forte, Jocelyn Lane, Astrid Warner and Adam Roarke as ‘The Preacher’

Bullet for Pretty Boy’ Recalls an Era
The New York Times | November 5, 1970

Larry Buchanan’s “A Bullet for Pretty Boy,” which opened yesterday at neighborhood theaters, recounts the criminal career of Charles (Pretty Boy) Floyd from the time when he, a decent fellow, accidentally kills a lout who had insulted his bride and shot his father, until he in turn is killed by Federal agents, also decent fellows, sent to stop his embarrassing bank robberies. I don’t believe the movie is especially true to life, but it surely is a lot nicer.

I don’t know how you can make a murderous gangster movie full of mostly nice guys, and I’m not sure that Larry Buchanan knows how either, but he has tried. Pretty Boy (Fabian Forte, ex Fabian) gulps a lot every time he kills somebody (almost never on purpose), and none of his friends and neighbors turn him in when he hides out with them—even though he carries a handsome reward if caught, and if not caught poses a threat to the friends and neighbors.

Both Ruby (Astrid Warner), the girl he marries and leaves behind, and Betty (Jocelyn Lane), the girl who picks him up along the way, really love him, and they fully understand each other’s feelings. When Pretty Boy guns down the treacherous brothers of the nice madam with whom he sometimes lives, she also understands and, although upset, doesn’t blame him for a minute.

“A Bullet for Pretty Boy” is not, therefore, “Bonnie and Clyde,” though there are many pointed references to the Depression so as to place the action in time, and also many ballad-type songs, so as to make it timeless.

Actually, the film looks a little as if they had taken the members of the cast of, say, “Beach Blanket Bingo” and put them in costume and given them old cars to drive and told them to play it for real. For real it isn’t. The bank robberies at first resemble trips to the super-market (express check-out) and later, when Pretty Boy gets a gang of his own, with girls, they resemble young people’s outings. When somebody gets shot he crumples down in a grotesque posture and rolls up his eyes and plays dead—the way kids might on the playground or in an amateur theatrical.

Thus the appeal of “A Bullet for Pretty Boy,” which is pretty minor, is in a sense a function of its several insufficiencies. I liked all the cast, though I couldn’t reasonably praise any of them, except for Michael Haynes as an old-time bank robber with whom Pretty Boy serves a brief apprenticeship. Both Miss Lane and Miss Warner are very lovely. Miss. Warner especially, who plays the tragic wife in the manner of the girl next door, ought to be everybody’s girl next door. In her performance, as in so much else in the movie, there is an awkward innocence, an utterly inappropriate charm.