It’s forty-two years since Alan Parker made his motion picture debut with this Prohibition-era musical response to Blue Remembered Hills – with kids playing adults, rather than vice versa – so the time is obviously right for a bangs-and-whistles edition, with a raft of new extra features and 4K restoration, updating the 2008 Blu-ray release. Well, this reissue comes in a beautiful Art Deco-styled steelbook, but otherwise the disc remains the same.
You’ll have seen the film already, but this is a timely reminder of just how accomplished a production it is; once Parker had made the decision to cast only children in all the roles – a decision apparently inspired by his eldest son – everything else fell perfectly into place. It’s a story about a turf war in 1920s Chicago, shot on the sound stages of Pinewood Studios in Buckinghamshire with a line-up of imported American child actors augmenting the multiple British ones involved in smaller roles (Dexter Fletcher makes an attention-grabbing debut as Baby Face, and ‘Bonita’ Langford’s in there too), and the plot, dialogue and photography are all a note-perfect homage to the films that inspired it. Some of the characters’ exchanges simply sing with love and respect for the early days of Hollywood, and the performances – while necessarily an occasionally mixed bag – are generally more than capable of pulling it all off. A fifteen-year-old pre-Happy Days Scott Baio – also in his screen debut – anchors the film with charismatic ease.
Paul Williams’ words and music are just as memorable and as consummately period reminiscent as Parker’s script, all honky-tonk pianos and jazz-tinged melodies, and round out the iconicism of the movie in catchy, unforgettable style. It’s a shame they didn’t get the kids singing the songs they had to mime along to, but time was short and the effect works well enough.
If it’s tempting to feel a touch of disquiet, especially in these sensitive times, about school-aged children dressed as dancing girls or spouting gangster spiel, then the conclusion to the picture rather settles the mind; the custard pie fight which resolves the story reveals the whole endeavour as essentially a supremely well-produced school play, with the criminal allusions being somewhat of a prelude to a good-natured sing-and-dance-along finale.
Parker’s film does look and sound lovely, with good contrast and rich colours despite the muted palette of the evocative production design, the only issue a hint of grain in the softer-focussed interior sequences. So it’s a 9/10 for the feature. But really, this release – including only the extra material already available elsewhere, mainly the director’s commentary – is all about whether you want to splurge out again just for the tin it comes in. It’s a really nice tin.
Extras: director’s commentary, trailers, promo reel, galleries, From Sketch to Screen
BUGSY MALONE / CERT: 12 (FEATURE: U) / DIRECTOR: ALAN PARKER / SCREENPLAY: ALAN PARKER / STARRING: SCOTT BAIO, JODIE FOSTER, FLORRIE DUGGER, JOHN CASSISI, MARTIN LEV / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW