MESSED UP AND MUSICAL: Bugsy Malone (1976)

I often write about movies in the middle of the night, when the rest of the world is asleep. Sometimes, a movie will seem like a dream instead of something real. Imagine a musical gangster movie starring all child actors with music by Paul Williams. Yet, wonder of wonders, this movie actually was filmed.

Sir Alan Parker’s feature-length directorial debut (he also directed Pink Floyd’s The WallAngel HeartFame and so many more), this is also Scott Baio’s first movie and features a young Jodie Foster.

Why kids? Parker said, “I had four young children and we used to go to a cottage in Derbyshire at weekends. On the long, boring car journey up there, I started telling them the story of a gangster called Bugsy Malone. They’d ask me questions and I’d make up answers, based on my memories of watching old movie reruns as a kid.” His oldest son loved the stories and suggested that when he made the movie, children should play the roles. 

The strangest moment of the film is seeing kids sing with Paul Williams’ voice. Parker agrees today. “Watching the film after all these years, this is one aspect that I find the most bizarre. Adult voices coming out of these kids’ mouths? I had told Paul that I didn’t want squeaky kids voices and he interpreted this in his own way. Anyway, as the tapes arrived, scarcely weeks away from filming, we had no choice but to go along with it!”

The film starts with Roxy Robinson being splurged by another gang. In the film, guns shoot whipped cream instead of bullets and once you get splurged, you’re done.  We meet speakeasy boss Fat Sam and Bugsy Malone (Baio) with a big musical number. Fat Sam is played by John Cassisi, a kid who was selected by Parker after asking for the worst behaved child in his Brooklyn class. Interestingly enough, after he retired from acting, Cassisi became involved in construction, rising to the Director of Global Construction for Citigroup. However, he pleaded guilty to bribery in 2012 and was sentenced to 2 to 6 years in prison, pretty much making him a real gangster.

Then, we meet Blousey Brown, a singer, and Dandy Don, the rival gangster who wants to take over Fat Sam’s rackets and splurging all his men. Meanwhile, Sam’s girlfriend Tallulah (Foster) tries to get between Bugsy and Blousey.

Bugsy helps Sam survive a trap that Dandy Dan sets, drawing Bugsy deeper into the gangster life, despite his budding affair with Blousey. Finally, everyone but our young lovers gets splurged and realizes that they can all get along.

This is a movie that defies my descriptions. You should just watch the trailer for yourself to confirm to me that this is all real and not a dream.

Unfortunately, this movie has never been released on DVD in the United States, so you’ll either need to import the film or turn to gray market sources to watch it.

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