Bugsy Malone (1976)

DVD Review – Written for RAF News Apr 2015

Bugsy Malone is a children’s classic that tells the story of two rival gangs in prohibition era Chicago where a new weapon has arrived on the scene.. a child friendly Tommy gun.


Shot in 70s London and set in 20s New York, Bugsy Malone remains a unique film that at times looks like utter chaos, with children standing in for adults and cream pies taking the place of bullets. Scott Baio is Bugsy, a wisecracking charmer who comes to the aid of speakeasy proprietor Fat Sam, our adolescent Al Capone, whilst under attack from a new outfit kitted out with Splurge guns.

Jodie Foster, considered a veteran actor at 13, stands out among many first time actors – fresh off the set of Taxi Driver working with Scorsese and De Niro, to working in this miniature mafia musical with a cast all under the age of 16. At times it feels like a school play – but with unbelievable production value. Costumes and sets have been shrunk down to create a world for our half-pint hero Bugsy, peddling around in custom built cars with a bicycle beneath the frame – said to cost just as much as a regular saloon car.

Bugsy Malone has a bizarre concept that is made all the more strange by the musical numbers – sung by adults with mismatched voices and danced by kids with no previous experience – but it holds onto an otherworldly charm. It really is a parody of the gangster genre, or of film in general, by showing the nature of acting as merely playing pretend. The only difference is that the industry as well as its actors take themselves too seriously, but Bugsy Malone doesn’t hide the fact that it’s just a bit of fun. Sickly and cringe-worthy at times but high spirited and harmless.


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