The Rise And Fall Of Legs Diamond
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Jack Diamond had the moves. Some were on the dance floor, where he earned the nickname Legs. Others were in the streets of New York, where he built a criminal empire in the Roaring '20s - and was the target of so many gangland shootouts he was also dubbed the Clay Pigeon. Made when the popularity of TV's The Untouchables swept the land, this taut thriller directed by veteran Budd Boetticher (The Bullfighter and the Lady, Seven Men from Now) tells its true story with style, nerve and machine-gun pacing. Handsome Ray Danton plays Legs, a man so fearless and opportunistic you'd swear drain cleaner pumps through his veins. Great character players and rising hopefuls (such as Dyan Cannon as mob "pigeon" Dixie) adds to the terrific pleasures of this throwback to classic Warner Bros. 1930s gangster sagas. It's one scorching ride.
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After informing me about every nook and cranny of Boetticher's contributions to the Western genre (and he talks fast so I'm hanging on every bit of info that I can process), he followed up by stating "what you need to see is The Rise and Fall of Legs Diamond". So I filed it away in the think-bank of my sputtering brain.
Time marched on…and still no sign of…wait! the Warner Brothers Archive Collection has a Remastered print available! Amazon has it! It's in the shopping cart! It's at my doorstep! I'm watching it! I watched it!
Ahem. I can't remember seeing Ray Danton (who plays Legs here) before, but this was a great performance; understated, confident, and hard-as nails. Nowadays we call them sociopaths, but back in the Depression era they were probably just good old fashioned cold-hearted, selfish, and determined-to-win heavies.
Danton brings the quiet, menacing intensity so well that the other actors suffer for it, though they all turn in genuine performances. A young fresh-faced Warren Oates (who also appeared in The Untouchables around this time) plays Legs' sickly brother; though this 1960 role, while adequate, doesn't do much to forecast the talented acting that was to come from the man.
Nonetheless, this is a fast-paced, well-written and efficiently-directed crime-drama that delivers just what the title promises. The set design is top-notch and pleases the eye even moreso as the tension builds, Legs Diamond preparing to dazzle us with the pressure-cooker of his pent-up hostility.
I am glad to have seen it and to finally have it in my collection to view again and again.
Dr. Ronald Schwartz, Manhattan
I LOVE OLD MOBSTER MOVIES SO I SAW HIM IN IT AND IT WAS WORTH IT. WARREN OATES IS
HIS YOUNGER BROTHER IS GREAT. VERY WELL MADE AND ACTED. CAN'T BELIEVE THIS WASN'T
EVER RUN ON LATE NIGHT MOVIES. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.