Most B-movie fans know the name Larry Buchanan. He’s the director behind such films as “The Eye Creatures,” “Zontar, the Thing from Venus,” “It’s Alive,” and the made for TV classic “Mars Needs Women.” For today’s film, though, Buchanan sets aside the monsters and aliens and instead turns his attention to a famous bank robber. That is, a famous bank robber as played by a 50’s teen heart-throb. Prepare yourself for the screams of many poodle-skirted young girls; here comes Fabian in 1970’s “A Bullet for Pretty Boy.”
The film opens on an Oklahoma farm at the wedding of young Charles Floyd (Fabian) and his new bride Ruby (Astrid Warner). The reception turns out to be a bit wild, though, when some rejects from “Deliverance” drop in to insult the blushing bride. This leads to violence, with Charles beating an apology out of one of the rowdies. There is retaliation, which leads to murder by both parties. Bottom line, Charles Floyd ends up in clink.
Several years later, Floyd busts out of prison and takes refuge in a brothel run by a woman named Beryl (Anne MacAdams). Her brother Wallace (Jeff Alexander) has a dislike for Floyd from the start, especially since the hooker he fancies, Betty (Jocelyn Lane), seems to have eyes for Charles. Wallace ends up giving Charles the nickname “Pretty Boy,” which he hates.
The brothel is also a regular hangout for Ned Short (Michael Haynes) and his gang of bank robbers. Pretty Boy ends up joining the gang and going with on several robberies. Meanwhile, his relationship with Betty blossoms. At one point, the cops do manage to get their hands on the now famous bank robber, but he manages to escape.
Eventually, Floyd does return to Oklahoma where he finally gets to see Ruby again. He’s still in love with her, and she with him. However, she knows she can’t go along with him in his life as bank robber. She also doesn’t seem to have too much of a problem with his affair with Betty. As Pretty Boy leaves, he takes on another member of the gang, an old friend called Preacher (Adam Roarke) and another crime spree follows. But, as is the case for most professional bank robbers, Pretty Boy’s days are numbered.
With “Bonnie and Clyde” having been a huge hit in 1967, I’m sure this film was an attempt to capitalize on that success. However, “A Bullet for Pretty Boy” falls way short of Arthur Penn’s violent landmark. This film is just sort of there. I don’t know how historically accurate this film is, but based on it one would think that Pretty Boy Floyd’s life was not all that interesting. I’m not saying that’s the case…I mean this is Larry Buchanan we’re dealing with here! But in this film, Floyd basically just moves from place to place and sometimes he robs a bank. Kind of boring.
One of the biggest problems with the film is that Fabian’s performance lacks in anything remotely close to charisma. Let’s face it, movies that focus on bank robbers, gangsters and other lowlifes succeed when we are given colorful characters who, though repellant, and still interesting. Fabian seems half asleep through much of the film; projecting that he really doesn’t want to be there. I’m sure Pretty Boy Floyd is an interesting figure in the history of American crime, but Fabian and Buchanan just don’t give us anything to care about here.
Buchanan may have directed his fair share of “schlock,” but even schlock can be compelling. That’s not the case here. There may have been “A Bullet for Pretty Boy,” but somebody should have bothered to save one shot and take this film out of it’s misery.