'The family that slays together stays together', ran the ads. Immersed in Freudian motifs, Corman's foray into rural gangsterdom makes no bones about its anti-social anti-heroes: the Barker clan are blatantly public enemies. A prologue sees young Kate Barker raped by her brothers; 'Blood's thicker than water' says her Pa. It's advice she clings to. Cutting to the Depression years, Corman finds Ma Barker abandoning her weak husband and taking her brood off on a brutal crime spree. This family unit comprises a sadist, a homosexual, a junkie (De Niro, sniffing glue like there's no tomorrow) and a lady-killer, and it's held together by incest and murder. Despite such sleazy subject matter, the cast is outstanding, dominated by a fierce Shelley Winters, and Corman pulls no punches, delivering a searing Jacobean tragedy of a gangster movie.
Cast and crew
Robert De Niro