The St. Valentine's Day Massacre

At the savoy Theatre

Having disposed of the black leather-jacket set in The Wild Angels and LSD(The Trip), Roger" in The Wild Angels" and LSD (The Trip), Roger Corman turns to the past for sensations and comes up with Al Capone. The result is lots of catsup in ballrooms and garages. Corman, a set-happy director, lets the furniture generate most of the suspense in The St. Valentine's Day Massacre. You're on the edge of your seat, in anguish: Will the next chairs zipping into the picture be dressed in chintz or campy antique satin.

It would be nicer to worry about bullets zipping, but everybody has his own little idea about what's melodramatic. Corman's is oddly pedestrian, especially plot-wise. Whenever a bastardly gangster pokes his head on the screen for the first time, an ominous reportorial voice treats you to his date of birth, to a list of his illegal actvities including the number of wives and mistresses he keeps, and to the picturesque means of his invariably violent death. The resumes are satisfying; Corman kills any curiosity about a man's fate that may have started growing malignantly inside you.

He doesn't know how to build action to a climax, either. Before the grand banquet, he offers several episodes as hors d'oeuvres. But it's like serving nine varieties of salami, then bringing on roast duck. By that time you've lost your appetite for animal flesh.

Corman is unlucky, as usual, with his cast. Jason Robards shouldn't have played Capone even if he were the only available brunette in Hollywood. He looks like a fine man who tumbled into the murder business by accident; he isn't crass enough for silk scarves and tophats to look appropriately ridiculous on him. Ralph Meeker, his Irish contender, is more like a gangster. His grubby soul shines right through his lovely suit. George Segal, another Irishman, has Robards handicap-elemental elegance. On top of that, he bears such an incredible resemblance to Robards that when you see him dealing with the other Irishmen, you're sure it's Al baby in disguise, pulling a fast one on his rivals. The woman in a practically woman-less movie is Jean Hale--a Harlow type without Harlow's spunky vulgarity.

The only place to see the Massacre is in Boston. When Meeker Screams, Dirty Wops! all the micks in the audience cheer. Then the wops get their chance to whistle and wave spaghetti when Robards curses out the sons of Parnell. That was exciting.