The Bonnie Parker Story (1958)

Genres - Crime, Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Biopic [feature]  |   Run Time - 79 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Bob Mastrangelo

The Bonnie Parker Story is an obscure oddity that exists in the shadow of the far better known Bonnie and Clyde, but this little film is also able to stand on its own legs. Dorothy Provine gives an electric performance as Bonnie Parker, the notorious Depression-era outlaw who went on a murderous multi-state crime spree with Clyde Barrow; in this telling, however, Parker is firmly in charge and her partner, renamed Guy Darrow, is reduced to supporting player. From its opening shot of Parker undressing through a window, it is clear that this is ultra low-budget, sensationalist filmmaking, but this is also top-of-the-line pulp storytelling. Provine struts through the picture with a sense of attitude, bitterness, and impatience, barking orders and always on the verge of another burst of violence. She's not the brightest of criminals, frequently making decisions that get her gang members killed, but one cannot help but root for Parker as her often merciless behavior is rooted in a reaction to the lousy manner in which men have treated her over the years. Director William Witney packs the film with considerable punch, giving the film as much attitude as Parker herself, staging scenes quickly for maximum effect, and using an edgy music score filled with '50s blues-rock. To be sure, many of Witney's techniques, as well as the short running time and sparse sets, are the products of the film's practically non-existent budget but they also enhance the picture's impact. The Bonnie Parker Story would make a perfect double feature with Bonnie and Clyde (1967); while no one will ever confuse it with that later classic, it also doesn't deserve to be forgotten. Stanley Livingston, later of the TV series My Three Sons, has an unbilled bit as a boy who charms Parker.