Bugsy Malone (1976)

Dancing gangster children.

Dancing gangster children.

What could be more child-friendly than the story of Bugsy Malone’s rise to infamy as a prominent prohibition-era gangster? I know, the story of Bugsy Malone’s rise to infamy told as a musical with an all-child cast whose guns shoot custard rather than bullets! DUH! Bugsy Malone is one of those movies that you take one look at and wonder what the fuck kind of drugs everyone was on in the ’70s. The concept was of course far too strange for me to disregard, and one dark night curiosity got the best of me and we popped this guy in. That was a few months ago, and I think I’m still confused about some (all?) of the decisions made here.

A young Scott Baio stars as Bugsy, a fast-talking, up-and-coming gangster with big ideas and a crush on the mousiest girl around, Blousey. She whines and complains and goes all over town auditioning to be a singer, but always comes up short. Her aspirations help feed her jealousy of Tallullah (Jodie Foster), a big

Jodie Foster as Tallulah

Jodie Foster as Tallulah

name act at Fat Sam’s, the speakeasy Bugsy frequents. All the while kids are shooting custard guns at each-other, fighting over who can be the kingpin of Chicago.

I just… I can’t… why? It’s not terrible to watch; I think the consensus when it was done is that we were all glad to have seen it, but wouldn’t ever want to go through seeing it again. The kids, particularly the girls, are weirdly sexualized in ways that would make everyone but Humbert Humbert uncomfortable; I mean Jodie Foster and the other girls are dressed up in their little showgirl outfits and it’s just creepy. Add on top of this the super weird decision to have all the musical numbers lip-synched by the kids, instead of having them actually sing them. The music was written by Paul Williams, and it’s his voice you hear instead of Scott Baio’s. It just

Scott Baio as Bugsy

Scott Baio as Bugsy

doesn’t fit right, and frankly it’s a little unsettling on top of all the other shit in this movie that’s already making its audience feel a little alienated and weird.

All that being said, I have to say that I almost admire such a strange vision. Obviously its quirks were enough to get me interested, and I loved the idea of the custard guns! But in the end, this movie might be more difficult to watch than it’s worth. The trouble is, I haven’t decided if that’s true or not. I can’t actually say that I recommend this film, but I can say that if the idea intrigues you in the slightest, you might want to check it out. It’s one of those things that must be seen to be believed.


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