New York. The prohibition era. The Coll Brothers, Vincent (Christopher Bradley) and Peter (Jeff Griggs), are sick of working for the Irish gangster, O’Malley (William Anthony La Valle). They want to hang out at the Cotton Club with big time gangsters like Lucky Luciano (Matt Servitto), Legs Diamond (Will Kempe), and Dutch Schultz (Bruce Nozick). Vincent has fallen in love with Lotte (Rachel York), a singer at the club but the club’s owner, Owney Madden (Jack Conley), makes it clear that Lotte is too good for a low-rent thug. After killing O’Malley, Vincent and Peter go to work for Dutch Schultz but soon, they grew tired of the low wages that Schultz pays them. The Colls decide to strike out on their own, leading to all out war with New York’s organized crime establishment.
Vincent Coll was a real-life gangster who actually did go to war with Dutch Schultz and Lucky Luciano. After a five-year old boy was fatally caught in the crossfire of a gun battle between Coll and his rivals, Vincent was nicknamed “Mad Dog” by the New York press. Mad Dog Coll presents a highly fictionalized account of Coll’s life, suggesting that the kid was actually shot by one of Coll’s rivals and presenting Coll as an idealistic rebel who refused to be controlled by Luciano’s organized crime commission. Luciano, Vincent and Peter agree, has sold out and no longer remembers where he came from.
Mad Dog Coll was one of two gangster movies that Menaham Golan produced, back-to-back, in Russia. In fact, Mad Dog Coll may be the first American film in which Russia stood in for America instead of the other way around. Though this film was produced after Golan broke up with his longtime producing partner, Yoram Globus, Mad Dog Coll still has a definite Cannon feel to it. It is low-budget, fast-paced, unapologetically pulpy, and entertaining as Hell. For a Golan production, the performances are surprisingly good. Bruce Nozick steals the entire movie as crazy Dutch Schultz. None of it is subtle but it is enjoyable in the way that only a Greydon Clark-directed, Menahem Golan-produced gangster film can be. 1920s New York is recreated on Russian soundstages. The threadbare production design and cardboard cityscape brings a Jon Pertwee/Tom Baker-era Dr. Who feel to the movie. All that is missing is The Master brewing up moonshine and the Daleks exterminating the Chicago Outfit.
In the U.S., Mad Dog Coll was retitled Killer Instinct, probably to cash in on the recent success of Basic Instinct. The entire cast was featured in the sequel, the Menahem Golan-directed Hit the Dutchman.