Sample Film and Theater Studies Dissertation Literature Review Paper on Al Capone (1959) Film Analysis

The subject of the film

The Al Capone film is a biographical film starring Rod Steiger who acts as Al Capone. The film is a crime dram film and revolves around the infamous Al Capone, who was a notorious drug baron hence the film’s theme is crime. The film is staged in a semi documentary style with a narrative voice over James Gregory who plays the role of Schaefler, an honest police officer who is determined to arrest Al Capone hence it can be perceived that the film is a topical American success story whereby a young person starts at the bottom of the corporate ladder and with due time is able to interact with the corporate leaders. However, in this case, the corporate ladder encompasses the underworld. Schaefler’s talent, ambition and luck propels him to the top of the ladder as portrayed by the film. It can be ascertained that the fil is dedicated to its theme, crime and more so the underworld operations which encompass illegal trade hence all its scenes are geared to expounding on this theme. The two characters, Al Capone and Schaefler contribute the most to addressing the theme of the film since they are the main players whereby the film basically revolve around their lives.

Relationship of separate elements of the film and their contribution to the theme

The film’s approach to the narration of its story is a unique one. The narrative entails a voice over James Gregory (Schaefler), an honest police officer who is sets out to get Al Capone at all costs. The film is set in a semi documentary and is chronological in nature. The film successfully blends in together fact and fiction so as to make the storyline more interesting. It is also noted that dialogues are craftily encapsulated into the film so as to help the viewer into understanding it more (Baxter 29). In some instances, both internal dialogue and an external narrator’s voice is used to bring out the story and to streamline it so s to have a smooth transition between different scenes.

The plot structure is dynamic since the characters are changing. Gregory who plays the role of Schaefler, the police officer who is after Al Capone quickly grows from a young inexperienced officer into a de facto status who seems to be the one who directs the federal investigations on Al Capone. The main storyline encompasses Al Capone coming to Chicago to join his friend Johnny Torrio as his bodyguard. This marks the start of the film. Al Capone quickly climbs his way up in the corporate ladder of the underworld crime fraternity but over the dead bodies of people who try to oppose him. He prefers wearing sharp expensive clothes and living a grandeur lifestyle, a fact which leads to him working from corporate like office and feeling bigger than the stooge Chicago politicians down in the city hall. After Al Capone hooks up with Johnny Torrio who oversees the rackets in Chicago for his uncle Jim Colosimo (Joe De Santis), his ambition is seen when he urges Torrio to get rid of his uncle. At this juncture, the film moves quickly and within a short time, Al Capone takes over Johnny Torrio. Quickly, he builds up a lethal criminal empire of illegal gambling, illegal trade of liquor and prostitution until he is convicted of tax evasion and sentenced to eleven years in prison (Axmaker 2). He is thereafter released as he is dying from an incurable disease.

The acting of the film is both realistic and mannered. The film encompasses various actors in addition to the main actors, Gregory (Schaefler) and Steiger (Al Capone). The two characters fits the real lifestyle which is thought to have been lived by the true characters portrayed in the film. Steiger acts in a pompous style and even has a large scar which helps to add to a sense of being a dangerous person. The characters are dynamic and they change as the film progresses. Al Capone changes from being a mere bodyguard into the leader of a criminal empire whereas Schaefler changes from an inexperienced police officer into a sophisticated and hardened federal investigator who helps in the conviction of Al Capone.

The cinematography is done in a good way. The qualities of the lighting and photography are interesting and done in the right way. However, it should be ascertained that he film was shot close to a half a century ago and hence the film industry has grown exponentially. As such, the quality of the photography and lighting can not match with that of contemporary movies. One interesting scene is the point whereby Al Capone and two of his best men assassinate Torrio’s uncle (Baxter 29). The setting entails a good sequence in photography and natural lighting which gives the film a natural feel.

The editing of the film, on the other hand is does not encompass high quality. Throughout the film, there are some unconvincing sets. There are also some badly done scenes such as film’s ending prison scene. In this case, it can be noted that the film is a low budget affair and a lot could have been done on its editing to make it more convincing and more interesting. As such, its editing is one of its major weaknesses.

However, the art direction and design is above average. The film is set in downtown Chicago mirroring the actual place in which the real Al Capano operated. The characters’ clothes also mirror the real characters with Al Capone wearing expensive suits and operating from an expensive office. Schaefler on the other hand wears his uniforms accordingly (Axmaker 2). The sound effects are meant to align with the film’s storyline.

Several scenes in the film help in showing the director’s style. An interesting scene is the point whereby Al Capone and two of his best men assassinate Torrio’s uncle. This scene shows that the director is bold and willing to show things as they are. The film encompasses a lot of bloodshed, which is expected since the original Al Capone rose to power via killing anyone who opposed him. The point whereby Al Capone is captured by the federal investigators encompasses some drama and shows the director’s ability to turn an individual’s biography into an interesting film.

Lastly, I can say that I liked the film. I liked the way the storyline was organized to show the rise and the fall of Al Capone. In as much as the film was shot close to half a century ago, it remain relevant up to date. The film encompasses some facts and some fiction which helps in making it more interesting. However, more could have been done to its editing to make it more convincing. I would recommend it to any person who is interested in crime-themed films.

Works Cited

Axmaker, Sean. “Al Capone (1959)”. TCM. Turner Entertainment Networks, Inc. 2012.

Baxter, John. “The Gangster Film (1970).” The Gangster Film Reader (2007): 29.