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The St. Valentine's Day Massacre
Directed by Roger Corman
Produced by Roger Corman
Written by Howard Browne
Starring Jason Robards
George Segal
Ralph Meeker
Jack Nicholson
Cinematography Milton R. Krasner
Distributed by Twentieth Century-Fox
Release date(s) January 1 1967
Running time 100 min.
Country U.S.A.

The St. Valentine's Day Massacre is a 1967 gangster film based on the 1929 Chicago gang shootings of the St. Valentine's Day Massacre. It was directed by Roger Corman and written by Howard Browne.

The film starred Jason Robards as Capone, George Segal as Peter Gusenberg and Ralph Meeker as Bugs Moran. (Orson Welles was originally supposed to play Capone - but Fox vetoed the deal, fearing that Welles was 'undirectable'.) It was also believed that Welles was the narrator of the film, but it was actually narrated by well-known Hollywood voice actor Paul Frees in Welles' style. A very young Bruce Dern plays one of the victims of the massacre, and Jack Nicholson has a bit part as a gangster.


Historical Accuracy

The film is a somewhat rough mixture of correct historical fact and outright movie fiction, though it is presented in docu-drama style. It is largely accurate in the historical coverage of the event, but creates several character names that exist only in the film, rather than reality, such as "Boris Chapman" and "Adolph Muller", which the film identifies as the two phony "policemen" involved in the massacre. There is considerable speculation on who those two men actually were, but their true identities still remain unknown. It also includes some actual facts that are erroneously used (such as the real name of Jack McGurn being given as "Vincenzo Demaury", an alias he used only in later years when working as a golf pro - his birth name was Vincenzo Gebaldi). The film also portrays Capone taking personal revenge on turncoat Unione Siciliano member Joe Aiello by personally murdering him. Capone did order the murder of Aiello, though it was carried out by members of his gang at a much later date. Its portrayal in the movie as having occurred before the massacre is important to the context of the film, but not the actual fact. In fairness, however, a great deal of research has been done on the Massacre in the last forty years, revealing new facts, and exploding some old theories, none of which writer Browne could have known at the time. Besides the climactic garage scene, Corman also staged a re-creation of the Moran Gang's attack on Capone headquarters in Cicero, Illinois which left Capone badly shaken, though unhurt. He also staged a stereotypical gangland funeral complete with tuxedo clad gunsels and enormous banks of flowers. Hymie Weiss is shown flying into a rage at Dean O'Banion's sendoff when the largest floral arrangement of them all reads, "From Al". Weiss himself is later killed in an ambush by the Capone mob, leaving Bugs Moran as head of the North Siders. Both Moran and Capone are repeatedly shown swearing bitter oaths of vengeance and disdain towards each other as they urge their respective underlings to wipe out "that no good louse".

Each character is given a verbal vocieover biography as they are introduced, and in some video releases, the biographies of Rheinhard Schwimmer and Adam Heyer, two of the massacre victims, are removed from the soundtrack, possibly due to protest from surviving family members.


The St. Valentine's Day Massacre was not, as might be guessed, inspired by the 1959-63 ABC TV series, The Untouchables, but is one of many motion pictures adapted from a CBS Playhouse 90 episode. Seven Against The Wall, broadcast on Playhouse 90 in December, 1958, was also written by Harold Browne and featured actors Milton Frome, Celia Lovsky and Frank Silvera in the same roles that they play in the film.

This film was one of the few that Roger Corman directed from a major Hollywood studio with a generous budget and an open-ended schedule. While most directors woud love such an assignment, Corman was disgusted with the incredible waste of time and money involved with "typical" movie production techniques. Corman, an independent director, was most comfortable in his own style: Shoestring budgets, and shooting schedules measured in days, rather than weeks. Nonetheless, it is generally considered one of his best films as a director.


In 2009 Empire Magazine named it #7 in a poll of the 20 Greatest Gangster Movies You've Never Seen* (*Probably)

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