Close your eyes and imagine the pitch meeting: “Okay, so, it’s a gangster movie, and, and . . . er . . . it’s a musical, right? But get this . . . with kids! All kids!
We’ll get that little girl from Napoleon and Samantha (1972) and a bunch of twelve-year-olds with gangland accents. Goldmine!”. Obviously, at least one studio bigwig liked the idea because, in 1976, Bugsy Malone hit the silver screen.
At the height of Prohibition, gangster factions led by Fat Sam (John Cassisi) and Dandy Dan (Martin Lev) are engaged in a good-old-fashioned mob war, throwing whipped cream pies in the other guys’ faces at the slightest provocation. But Dandy Dan has a new weapon, a pie-shooting Tommy gun that threatens to tip the balance of power. . .
In response, Fat Sam dispatches his up-and-coming tough, Bugsy Malone (Scott Baio), to steal the device. Tarty moll Tallulah (Jodie Foster) also works her way into the action, which frequently breaks into either a song or a huge pie fight as the gang war escalates.
Sarsparilla is the beverage of choice at Fat Sam’s place and the cars – elaborate mock-ups of roadsters – are propelled by pedal power.
Filled with rollicking tunes and loving jabs at old gangster films, Bugsy Malone featured early work from Baio (later Happy Days‘ Chachi) and Foster (future star of The Accused and Silence of the Lambs among many others) as Bugsy and Tallulah.
The film didn’t do as well as hoped in its initial release, but time, video and TV syndication have brought Bugsy Malone back into the limelight for some well-deserved recognition.
The 90’s even brought a stage revival of Bugsy Malone, complete with a new soundtrack album.
Albin ‘Humpty’ Jenkins