Not All It's Cracked Up To Be
Rick "Mad Dog" Mattix | Iowa | 09/01/2009
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Well, this show brings together some of the cream of the crop of 1930s crime historians (Bill Helmer, Ellen Poulsen, Bryan Burrough, John Neal Phillips, R.D. Morgan, Paul Maccabee, and many others) and they provide some insightful commentary. It well conveys the jurisdictional and other limitations of 1930s law enforcement, the "social bandit" adolatry of outlaws expressed by many in Depression-torn America, and the baptism by fire of the fledgling FBI (actually known until 1935 as the Division of Investigation). But for a two-hour program (and two years in the making) it really has some serious flaws as well, for something aspiring to present the definitive documentary on the Public Enemy era.
The show opens with the Kansas City Union Station Massacre, arguably the opening confrontation in the first "National War on Crime," and leaves it entirely unresolved, apparently owing to the producers trying to stick to the time constraints of the years 1933-34. Throughout the program there is no mention whatever of either "Pretty Boy" Floyd or the Barker-Karpis Gang (in reality the major outlaw band of the period, despite the iconic figure of Dillinger). The writing and narration is shallow and error-ridden, and bad, and equally inaccurate, reenactments largely take the place of newsreels and historical photos. The interview segments are the real gems and one in particular which comes to mind here is Marvelle Feller's recollection of his teenage encounter with Bonnie and Clyde and henchman W.D. Jones following the Dexfield Park shootout near Dexter, Iowa. Unfortunately, we get to hear only a few seconds of Marvelle's account and the rest of it is filled in with a nonsensical reenactment of the outlaws' escape in a pickup truck. I'm guessing the old pickup was a cheap buy when the producers couldn't find a '29 Plymouth car but the narrator even describes the vehicle as a truck. Nothing like changing the facts to make 'em fit what you've got! The August 1933 robbery of the Peoples Savings Bank in Grand Haven, Michigan is described as "Baby Face" Nelson's first bank robbery, even tho he'd been robbing banks for at least two years prior to this, and Nelson is shown committing this and subsequent pre-Dillinger robberies alone. He had accomplices and the Grand Haven robbery was in fact planned for Nelson's gang by master bank robber Eddie Bentz, another of the overlooked Public Enemies. In fact the so-called "second Dillinger Gang" was originally Nelson's gang which Dillinger joined after the Crown Point escape. All the reenactments show gangsters and lawmen carrying Thompsons equipped with 30-shot box mags that didn't come out until World War II. This is typical of these sort of shows but even their "firearms expert" claims that 30-shot clips were in use in the '30s, which has brought guffaws from a number of Thompson aficionados. I also got a kick out of some of the stylistic glitches, including the goatee and sideburns sported by the G-men in Nelson's last stand.
So many key players and major crimes are left out that it's difficult to imagine a "crime wave" centered wholly on the sparse exploits of Dillinger, Nelson, Bonnie and Clyde, and the relatively harmless "Machine Gun" Kelly (credited by the narrator as the only major Public Enemy to be taken alive; wasn't it the capture of Karpis in 1936 that both brought the "gangster era" to a close and also sealed J. Edgar Hoover's public persona as a so-called supercop?).
I was on this show so I can knock it. It's okay but it don't live up to its hype."
The Rise of the FBI & The U.S. Crime Wave of 1933-34
RJRo20 | California | 07/12/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"During the Great Depression in the United States, emerges an unforgettable 18-month crime spree that terrifies and fascinates its citizens. The outlaws run wild, outwitting most state cops with their technologically advanced weapons, bulletproof vests, and superior rides!
This documentary provides a riveting and explicit account during the gangster years, thus giving rise to America's first national police force: The FBI. It's a fumbling and humbling beginning. Its special agents learn on the job; lawyers and accounting degree holders with limited or no law enforcement knowledge. However, in the end, they succeed in bringing down America's most notorious criminals.
It's an enthralling, dramatic, and educational docudrama--an excellent production. HIGHLY recommended!"