Guns, Girls, and Gangsters! The title of this 1958 film pretty much sums it all up.
Now, technically, I guess you could debate whether or not the criminals in this film really qualify as gangsters. When I hear the term “gangster,” I tend to think of the big Mafia chieftains, like Al Capone and the Kennedys. Maybe it’s because I’ve seen The Godfather too many times but I always associate gangsters with wealth, big mansions, elaborate weddings, and aging crooners who need someone to chop off a horse’s head in order to get a role in From Here To Eternity. However, the gangsters in this film are all basically small-time criminals. One of them does own a nightclub but it’s not a very impressive nightclub. If anything, they’re wannabe gangsters. However, Guns, Girls, and Wannabes just doesn’t have the same ring to it.
Chuck Wheeler (Gerald Mohr) has a plan. He wants to rob an armored car. It’s a Vegas armored car, so of course it’s going to be full of money and since Michael Corleone killed Moe Greene three years before, there shouldn’t be too many repercussions from hijacking it. (Sorry, I’m still thinking about The Godfather.) To enlist the aid of a nightclub owner, he enlists the aid of a singer named Vi (Mamie Van Doren). Vi just happens to be the wife of Chuck’s former prison cellmate, Mike (Lee Van Cleef). Vi has been demanding a divorce for a while but Mike won’t grant it because he’s insanely jealous. He probably wouldn’t be happy to find out that Chuck and Vi are now a couple but, fortunately, he’s locked up.
Except, of course, Mike escapes from prison around the same time that Chuck and the gang manage to hijack that armored car. As you can guess, this leads to mayhem and havoc. That’s where the guns of the title come into play….
Guns, Girls, and Gangsters is an entertaining little B-noir. It’s only 70 minutes long so the film doesn’t waste any time getting to the action. (There’s also a narrator who serves to fill in any plot holes and to keep the audience entertained with his rather self-important delivery.) Gerald Mohr is a bit on the dull side as Chuck but you better believe that Lee Van Cleef is 100% menacing and oddly charismatic as the as the always angry Mike. Van Cleef brings a charge of very real danger to the film. (Perhaps he’s the gangster that the title was referring to, though I would still think of him as being more of an outlaw than a gangster.) And, of course, you’ve got Mamie Van Doren, playing yet another tough dame in dangerous circumstances. Van Doren gets to perform two musical numbers in Guns, Girls, and Gangsters and they both have a low-rent Vegas charm to them. Watching this film, it occurred to me that Van Doren may not have been a great actress but she had the perfect attitude for films like this. She played characters who did what they had to to do survive and who made no apologies for it and it’s impossible not to be on her side when she’s having to deal with creeps like Chuck or sociopaths like Mike.
Guns, Girls, and Gangsters is an entertaining B-noir. There’s enough tough talk, cynical scheming, and deadly double crosses to keep noir fans happy.