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  Little Laura and Big John Florida Felonies
Year: 1973
Director: Luke Moberly
Stars: Fabian Forte, Karen Black, Ivy Thayer, Ken Miller, Paul Gleason, Cliff Frates, Evie Karafotias, Phil Philbin, Margaret Fuller, Jerry Albert, Lee Warren, Ben Rossi, Terri Juston, Tony Romano
Genre: Thriller, HistoricalBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: Back in the 1920s, there was a spate of criminal gangs robbing banks and killing indiscriminately across the United States of America. But before the more notorious crooks such as Bonnie and Clyde and Legs Diamond were a team operating out of the Florida Everglades: John Ashley (Fabian Forte) and his girlfriend Laura (Karen Black), with their accomplices. They had known each other since they were children and even then Laura's mother (Ivy Thayer) was aware that John was a bad influence, but it was as if they were fated to be together...

I would be very surprised if Little Laura and Big John would have existed were it not have been for a certain period gangster movie of the previous decade starring Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway. The shadow of Bonnie and Clyde looms large over this film, and comparisons are not flattering despite the presence of two supposed professionals heading the cast. Scripted by its director Luke Moberly - in what was to be his only effort at filmmaking - with Bob Woodburn, the film dutifully fills us in on the facts of the true life case by joining the dots between bank robberies and bootlegging.

John's life of crime begins when he shoots his business partner accidentally (we think) and briefly goes on the run before being caught. This makes up his mind that he'll make cash stealing, yet the first attempt not only doesn't garner very much, it being a regional branch they visited, but has John's eye shot out by an over-eager gang member, making it necessary for star Fabian to don an eye patch for the rest of the film. It doesn't make him speak like a pirate, alas, for that might have brightened up a listless experience.

Fabian had come a long way from pop chart success to appearing in tiny-budget regional answers to Hollywood hits, but he is no worse than the material here. However, Black as Laura is a jumble of tics and baby voices and it's a relief when she's not in the scene. John does go to prison eventually, but stages a daring escape, making him public enemy number one after starting up his illegal schemes and murders once more, but the way the film presents his exploits grows unclear as to the time frame we are watching, never mind the geography.

The exploitation marks are here, from the violence to the gratuitous nudity (though not provided by Black, who remains fully clothed throughout), but they count for little when mounted so shabbily. Some parts are supposed to be funny, some poignant, but as the plotline jumps from crime to crime the most likely emotion you will be feeling is frustration at the light funk workouts continuously playing on the soundtrack. There's barely a minute goes by without yet another inappropriate tune blaring away anachronistically, with the prison break sequence most egregious of all, I swear the singer repeats the same line fifty times if not more. So while not the best of the Bonnie and Clyde rip-offs, it might appeal to fans of non-Hollywood Americana if they don't mind its amateurism. Music by Bill Walker.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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