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Blu-ray Review: Bugsy Malone (1976)

September 21, 2021

By John Corrado

Last month, Paramount released a new Blu-ray edition of director Alan Parker’s 1976 film Bugsy Malone, an homage to classic Prohibition-era gangster movies that casts kids in all the roles and replaces bullets with whipped cream.

The film is set in New York City circa 1929, and follows Bugsy Malone (Scott Baio), a child gangster working for Fat Sam (John Cassisi), owner of the Grand Slam Speakeasy whose turf is being encroached upon by rival mobster Dandy Dan (Martin Lev).

When Bugsy learns that the rival gang has gotten their hands on new “splurge guns” that fire off mounds of whipped cream with the speed of machine guns, while Fat Sam’s boys are still working with throwing pies, he hatches a plan to to steal the weapons.

The story also involves a pair of love interests; Fat Sam’s main girl and star performer Tallulah (Jodie Foster, whose breakout role in Taxi Driver also graced screens in 1976), who also has a thing for Bugsy, and aspiring actress Blousey Brown (Florrie Duggar), who comes to audition for a singing position at Fat Sam’s joint but ends up falling for Bugsy.

Parker’s film could be considered a spoof, but would more correctly be classified as an homage to the genre and era that it emulates. The most notable aspect of Bugsy Malone is the very unique vibe of the film, which authentically captures the feel of an old 1930s gangster movie, complete with some lovely old school production design. The only difference is that children fill all the roles, but the young actors treat their characters as seriously as if they were being played by actors several times their age, giving the film a charming school play feel.

The film is also a musical, with a number of original songs by Paul Williams that are expectedly catchy and upbeat. Some elements of the film do feel dated, and the effect of having the kids’ singing voices being dubbed over by adults doesn’t quite work, especially in hindsight. But Bugsy Malone remains a minor classic that has gained itself a dedicated following over the years, especially with those who grew up with the film.

Bonus Features (Blu-ray):

The Blu-ray comes with a pair of new featurettes, as well as a selection of trailers. There is no digital copy included in the package.

Give a Little Love: Paul Williams on Bugsy Malone (6 minutes, 13 seconds): Williams reflects on how he was approached for the project, writing the songs for the film, and his one main regret of not having the kids do their own singing.

Filmmaker Focus: Executive Producer David Puttnam on Bugsy Malone (5 minutes, 27 seconds): Puttnam reflects on working with Parker, who apparently somewhat disassociated himself from the project until realizing its staying power with audiences in the years after its release. Puttnam also talks a bit about the production of the film (he says the splurge guns never properly worked), which wasn’t as much of a success in America as it was overseas, and its legacy as a royalty-free staple of school productions.

Theatrical Trailers

Bugsy Malone (2 minutes, 11 seconds)

Paper Moon (3 minutes, 55 seconds)

Grease (2 minutes, 3 seconds)

Black Beauty (1971) (1 minute, 1 second)

Bugsy Malone is a Paramount Home Entertainment release. It’s 93 minutes and rated G.

Street Date: August 31st, 2021

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