Gang Busters (1955)

78 mins | Drama | March 1955

Director:

Bill Karn

Cinematographer:

William H. Clothier

Production Company:

Visual Drama, Inc.
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HISTORY

The film’s opening title card reads: “Visual Drama, Inc. in association with Terry Turner presents Gang Busters .” The rest of the film’s onscreen credits appear at the conclusion of the picture. Although the credits indicate that Visual Drama, Inc. copyrighted the picture in 1955, the film is not included in the Copyright Catalog. The film opens with voice-over narration (by Gabriel Heatter) describing the deplorable prison conditions that have often led to jailbreaks and riots, but claims that “through the successful efforts of Governor Paul Patterson and Warden Clarence Gladden, citizens of Oregon no longer live in fear of escapes.” The narration continues that Gang Busters brings the audience the story of John Omar Pinson in the hope that “the focus of our nation will be brought on penal institutions.” Don Harvey, as “Detective Walsh,” is then shown sitting at his desk and introduces himself as the host of the Gang Busters case. The film is presented in a semi-documentary format, with voice-over narration by Harvey heard intermittently throughout. A written statement at the end of the credits reads: “Occasionally names and places are changed to protect the innocent.”
       The film is loosely based on the crimes of Omar August Pinson, also known as John Omar Pinson. Although the film states that he was the FBI’s “Public Enemy No. 4,” the FBI has never had a “Public Enemy” list. Pinson was number five on the bureau’s first “ten most wanted” list, however. In 1936, Pinson was first arrested and jailed, and after serving several more prison terms, continued to commit burglaries. On 15 Apr 1947, Pinson murdered Oregon State Police Officer Delmond ... More Less

The film’s opening title card reads: “Visual Drama, Inc. in association with Terry Turner presents Gang Busters .” The rest of the film’s onscreen credits appear at the conclusion of the picture. Although the credits indicate that Visual Drama, Inc. copyrighted the picture in 1955, the film is not included in the Copyright Catalog. The film opens with voice-over narration (by Gabriel Heatter) describing the deplorable prison conditions that have often led to jailbreaks and riots, but claims that “through the successful efforts of Governor Paul Patterson and Warden Clarence Gladden, citizens of Oregon no longer live in fear of escapes.” The narration continues that Gang Busters brings the audience the story of John Omar Pinson in the hope that “the focus of our nation will be brought on penal institutions.” Don Harvey, as “Detective Walsh,” is then shown sitting at his desk and introduces himself as the host of the Gang Busters case. The film is presented in a semi-documentary format, with voice-over narration by Harvey heard intermittently throughout. A written statement at the end of the credits reads: “Occasionally names and places are changed to protect the innocent.”
       The film is loosely based on the crimes of Omar August Pinson, also known as John Omar Pinson. Although the film states that he was the FBI’s “Public Enemy No. 4,” the FBI has never had a “Public Enemy” list. Pinson was number five on the bureau’s first “ten most wanted” list, however. In 1936, Pinson was first arrested and jailed, and after serving several more prison terms, continued to commit burglaries. On 15 Apr 1947, Pinson murdered Oregon State Police Officer Delmond Rondeau and was sentenced to life imprisonment in the state penitentiary. On 30 May 1949, Pinson escaped from the prison, and, as depicted in the film, was buried alive by his fellow escapee, who believed that he had died from gunshot wounds. Pinson was re-captured in Aug 1950 and returned to the Oregon State Penitentiary, from which he was paroled in 1959. Pinson was also the subject of a show on the radio series Wanted . Airing in 1950 on the NBC network, “The Cop Killer of the West” gave a description of Pinson, who was still at large at the time of the broadcast, and was directed by Walter McGraw.
       Production of a feature-length film of Gang Busters was announced in Nov 1954. The film was based on Phillips H. Lord’s long-running radio series of the same name. The radio series, featuring narrators such as Lord and H. Norman Schwarzkopf, the superintendent of the New Jersey State Police during the investigation of the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby, ran from 1935 to 1957 on various networks. It was first known as G-Men and changed its name to Gang Busters shortly after its debut. The radio show spawned a popular but short-lived television series, called Gangbusters , which ran on the NBC network in 1952 and featured Lord as the narrator. The series presented purportedly "authentic police case histories” “in cooperation with police and federal law enforcement departments throughout the United States.” The radio show was credited with aiding in the capture of several hundred criminals through the airing of their descriptions.
       A thirteen-chapter movie serial, entitled Gang Busters , was released by Universal in 1942. The serial was directed by Ray Taylor and Noel Smith and starred Kent Taylor. According to the Var review, portions of the 1955 picture were shot on location in Oregon. The review also reported that the film, the first produced by General Teleradio, had already “had some striking successes in New England,” where it was being distributed on a states-rights basis with support from television advertisments that “were heavy on the lurid violence aspect.” In a negative review of the picture, the LAEx critic speculated that "this supposedly new movie has been enlarged to feature length from a shorter TV production.” Although Visual Drama, Inc., a subsidiary of General Teleradio, was listed in HR ’s television production charts as producing a number of half-hour episodes of Gang Busters , only the feature film was released. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
9 Apr 1955.
---
Daily Variety
21 Mar 55
p. 4.
Film Daily
1 Apr 55
p. 22.
Hollywood Reporter
9 Nov 1954
p. 1.
Los Angeles Examiner
19 May 1955.
---
Los Angeles Times
19 May 1955.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
2 Apr 55
p. 387.
The Exhibitor
26 Jan 55
p. 3907.
Variety
23 Mar 55
p. 6.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTOR
Dir
WRITERS
With revisions by
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
FILM EDITOR
MUSIC
Mus score comp and cond
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod supv
Coord
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the radio series Gang Busters created by Phillips H. Lord (1935--1957).
DETAILS
Release Date:
March 1955
Production Date:
began November 1954
Physical Properties:
Sound
RCA Sound Recording
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
78
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
17287
SYNOPSIS

One afternoon, police detective Walsh helps an apparently handicapped man load luggage into his car, but when the man acts suspiciously, Walsh arrests him and discovers that he has a gun taped inside the sling on his arm. After the man has been arrested, numerous weapons are found in the car, which is discovered to be stolen, and although the man refuses to give his name, the police discover that he is John Omar Pinson. Pinson, who is listed as the FBI's "Public Enemy No. 4" because of his many robberies, is sentenced to life imprisonment at the Oregon State Penitentiary. The ruthless, arrogant Pinson becomes the leader of a band of inmates, which includes Louie Feth, Mike Denike and Slug Bennett, but cruelly rejects the pleas for friendship from young criminal Wayne Long, who believes that Pinson is a mastermind. After a few months, Pinson sews himself into a bag of flaxseed and escapes from the prison. He begins stealing automobiles, but one day, while he is again employing his sling ruse, patrolman Rondeau investigates his activities and Pinson shoots him to death. Walsh and his partner, Detective Fuller, are among the policemen who set up roadblocks to trap Pinson, but Pinson is able to elude them. When Pinson attempts to leave the state, however, Walsh catches him at a train station, and he is returned to the penitentiary. After several months of good behavior, Pinson is allowed to exercise in the prison yard, and there meets up with his cohorts. Pinson promises to take them with him during his next escape, and so the men arrange to work in the motor pool so that they can be ... +


One afternoon, police detective Walsh helps an apparently handicapped man load luggage into his car, but when the man acts suspiciously, Walsh arrests him and discovers that he has a gun taped inside the sling on his arm. After the man has been arrested, numerous weapons are found in the car, which is discovered to be stolen, and although the man refuses to give his name, the police discover that he is John Omar Pinson. Pinson, who is listed as the FBI's "Public Enemy No. 4" because of his many robberies, is sentenced to life imprisonment at the Oregon State Penitentiary. The ruthless, arrogant Pinson becomes the leader of a band of inmates, which includes Louie Feth, Mike Denike and Slug Bennett, but cruelly rejects the pleas for friendship from young criminal Wayne Long, who believes that Pinson is a mastermind. After a few months, Pinson sews himself into a bag of flaxseed and escapes from the prison. He begins stealing automobiles, but one day, while he is again employing his sling ruse, patrolman Rondeau investigates his activities and Pinson shoots him to death. Walsh and his partner, Detective Fuller, are among the policemen who set up roadblocks to trap Pinson, but Pinson is able to elude them. When Pinson attempts to leave the state, however, Walsh catches him at a train station, and he is returned to the penitentiary. After several months of good behavior, Pinson is allowed to exercise in the prison yard, and there meets up with his cohorts. Pinson promises to take them with him during his next escape, and so the men arrange to work in the motor pool so that they can be together. Their attempt to distract the guards with a fire in the tool shed fails, however, and Pinson is sent to solitary confinement. Hoping to win the approval of his hero, Wayne slips Pinson a file in a loaf of bread. After three months of sawing the door bolt, Pinson escapes from his cell, then knocks out a guard and steals his uniform. Using the guard’s keys, he releases Bennett but leaves the pleading Wayne behind. During their climb over the prison wall, Bennett is shot, and Pinson is forced to drag him along to Lovers’ Lane, where they steal a car. They then break into a pharmacy, where Pinson uses his training as a chemist to treat Bennett. The police, alerted to the break-in, shoot at them, and Pinson is seriously wounded while he and Bennett run away. They manage to escape into the hills and cross the Columbia River, thereby confusing the pursuing bloodhounds, but Pinson grows increasingly weak. Pinson asks Bennett to steal a shovel from a nearby farmhouse, and when Bennett returns, he believes that Pinson is dead. After burying Pinson, Bennett is forced to go to a doctor because of a terrible pain in his jaw. The doctor tells him that he has cancer, and the distressed Bennett attempts to commit suicide but fails. Knowing that he is dying from the cancer, Bennett leads Walsh to the site where he buried Pinson, and the men are stunned to discover that the grave is empty. Meanwhile, in the prison, Louie and Mike believe that Pinson is dead, but Wayne insists that he is alive, and that he knows how to contact Pinson. Intrigued, Walsh sends Fuller on an undercover mission to the prison, where he poses as a new prisoner assigned to be Wayne’s cellmate. Louie and Mike, who have long boasted about having two machine guns hidden on “the outside,” finally relent and tell Wayne where they are located. Because Fuller was unable to obtain any information, Walsh arranges for Wayne to be paroled, after which Wayne goes to the boardinghouse where the guns are stashed and retrieves them. Believing that the way to draw Pinson’s attention is to get his name in the news, Wayne steals a truck and murders the driver. Wayne then attempts to rob a bank but is wounded as he attempts to escape. In custody, Wayne explains his warped plan to impress Pinson, which prompts Walsh to leak a story to the newspapers that Pinson is alive and in contact with Wayne. Pinson, who is indeed alive and living quietly, is infuriated and decides to flee the country. Needing a new identity and passport, Pinson contacts Petey, a forger, but the canny Walsh has Petey’s poolhall under surveillance, and Pinson is apprehended. In Walsh’s office, Pinson relates how he woke up after Bennett had buried him and staggered off to freedom, certain that he was safe. Pinson is sent back to the penitentiary, and on the night that Wayne dies in the gas chamber, Pinson merely smiles and goes to sleep. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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