Thursday, 18 December 2008

"Yo, sir"? You must be from the south! That's "Yes, sir." You got foot patrol.

Well it's been a crazy old week so far. For a start, in a news item that seems like it was practically designed for Naveed, it turns out that one of the moons of Saturn has a spreading surface. Enceladus, the sixth largest of sixty, yes sixty, moons that orbit Saturn has an ice water surface that appears to move an awful lot like the tectonic places on Earth, prompting speculation amongst scientists that there's a liquid underneath the surface. Prompting speculation that the liquid may be water. Prompting speculation that there may be life on Enceladus. Prompting speculation of which will be the first to set up a joint there, McDonalds or KFC? It's exciting times kids.

Following on from this is a mountain of even more speculation, this time about the third Batman film. After The Dark Knight's ground breaking performance at the box office this summer, those bastions of common sense at The Sun have announced the new line up for the forthcoming flick tentatively entitled "Gotham". Christian Bale will reprise his role as the caped crusader heading an all star cast including Rachel Weisz as Catwoman, Shia Labeouf as Robin, and….. wait for it…. Eddie Murphy as The Riddler. A film insider was quoted as saying "Eddie's a fantastic addition. Everyone's excited to see what he does as The Riddler". Now, while I agree that it's about bloody time Murphy got his act together and produced a truly versatile performance such as Robin Williams in One Hour Photo or, er, Heath Ledger in TDK, it's sadly not going to be as The Riddler. Because, and you may want to be sitting down for this, currently there are no plans at all to film another movie in the Batman franchise. Christopher Nolan, the man most responsible for the rejuvenation of Bruce Wayne as a cinema force, is busy doing other things and as such Warner Bros., although anxious to get another Batman flick in the bag, daren't proceed without him for fear of ruining their one quality movie product (Gee Note: Because they wouldn't want to do something stupid like, oh I don't know, woefully miscasting a major role. Like, and this is just off the top of my head, having an iconic villain like The Riddler portrayed by someone like Eddie Murphy for example).

The "journalist" who wrote the article is a man named Gordon Smart (Gee Note: Oh the irony). Obviously Smart is a man who doesn't believe that facts should get in the way of a good story as with the minimum amount of research he would have found out that Nolan is on record as saying that he didn't believe certain characters from the comic books would work in this new "realistic" Batman universe. Among the characters he named as unlikely to ever appear in the franchise were Killer Croc, The Penguin, and most importantly Robin. Which means that Labeouf will not by donning the yellow cape of the boy wonder in the near future. Oh Shia, will you never be able break away from art house cinema like Indiana Jones and Transformers and get the chance to star in a summer block buster?

Also, today I found myself right slap bang in the middle of an Anthrax scare. No really, for reasons beyond my control I was in the office of a telecommunications company this morning when someone in the post room opened an envelope containing a white powder. Which means either Jack Nicholson got so wasted he accidentally mailed his stash to an overseas cable supplier (Gee Note: "Oh man, not again. What the hell am I meant to give the strippers now?"), or somebody intentionally filled an envelope with talcum powder hoping to scare the bejesus out of white collar workers.

The truly noteworthy aspect of all of this was the aftermath of the letter opening. Despite the fact that the local Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency felt the need to evacuate during the September 11th attacks (Gee Note: Which I still don't understand to this day. I mean did people honestly think that the DVLA was high on Osama Bin Laden's hit list? "Yes friends, we will attack the World Trade Centre throwing America's economy in to chaos. Then we will attack the Pentagon, crippling America's military. And then in our final assault, we will destroy the DVLA. This last step will surely bring the West to it's knees. Without a way of being able to register private licence plate numbers, there will be panic in the streets and civilized society will tear itself apart. Finally friends, victory will be ours. Mu ha ha ha ha hah!"), my home town of Swansea isn't really a terrorist hot spot. And so, probably due to the lack of experience in dealing with such matters, it took the police a whole three hours to turn up to the office block, by which point most people had forgotten about the whole "mail of death" thing and started to carry on with the rest of their day. The police, feeling that they should probably do something now that they were there, ordered all the smokers huddled in the freezing cold back in to building and stopped anyone else from entering. They then examined the powder and concluded that, as everybody was still very much alive, it wasn't anthrax after all. Following this brilliant piece of the detective work they seemed satisfied and left. All in a day's work ma'am.

Now it would be easy to criticise the local police for being inept. Very easy in fact. But then it should be remembered that Swansea is hardly cosmopolitan, and so as far as a copper's day to day work would go, you're much more likely to find out that someone's car has been nicked by Dean from Bonymaen than you are to stumble upon a criminal plot to overthrow the Swedish government. And hey, at least nobody died. Nah, as poorly prepared as the South Wales Police Force is when it comes to dealing with anything other than the simplest of crimes, they are far from the most inept crime fighting unit.

That award must surely go to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, circa 1934.

Allow me to explain. After the roaring 20's the golden age of high profile criminals had pretty much come to an end. Organised crime's fight against prohibition endeared them to members of the public, making anti hero's out of folks like Al Capone and “Bugs” Moran. To some these were men who, while violent and brutal, were trying to combat an unjust law. However when prohibition was abandoned in 1933, these men and others like them suddenly found themselves the outcasts of society.

And so in 1934 America needed a new dashing criminal to fall in love with. Step forward and take a bow Mr. John Dillinger.

John Dillinger, born in 1903, was the son of a grocer. At the age of 4 his mother died, leaving his teenage sister Audrey to raise John Jr while daddy maintained the business. Without a strong hand to guide the young lad, Dillinger soon found himself in trouble with the law. Unhappy at home, and under the watchful eye of the local police force, Dillinger decided to join the Navy.

Sadly not even the life of the sea could whip the young John in to shape. He deserted only after a couple of months, and proceeded to continue his in and out of jail existence, managing to convince a girl named Beryl Hovious to both marry and divorce him in a five year period in the process.

While in jail for robbing a local grocer after a drinking binge, John took the opportunity to learn from the masters. Men like Harry Pierpont and Russell Clark, veterans of the robbery game, took it upon themselves to school the young Dillinger. John soaked in all the information he could, bided his time, planned ahead, and dreamed big. Dillinger didn't want to become just any old crim. Oh no, Dillinger wanted to be a bank robber.

Dillinger had the tools to succeed. He separated himself from the pack by, incredibly, emulating the movies. He would be stylish in his escapades, wearing nice suits and hoping over counters. He wasn't a violent man, nor did he have an explosive temper. In fact, in a world dominated by brutes and thugs such as Baby Face Nelson, Dillinger could've been considered something of a gentleman.

He was smart too. Realising that he would do himself more harm than good by walking in to every bank guns blazing, he came up with ingenious ways in which to relieve the institutions of their money. Such as posing as a security alarm Sales rep, or getting his gang to pretend they were a film crew shooting some “bank robbery” scenes.

Dillinger wasn't immune to being caught however. And at the beginning of 1934 was locked up in the “escape proof” Crown Point jail, after previously escaping prison in Lima. Unable to cope with life behind bars Dillinger put his intellect to work and came up with a plan. Carving a bar of soap in to the shape of a handgun and painting it black using shoe polish, John Dillinger bluffed his way to freedom. Not one to finish on a low note, Dillinger completed his getaway by stealing the brand new Ford of local Sheriff Lillian Holley. Holley was later quoted as saying “If I ever see John Dillinger again, I'll shoot him dead with my own gun.” (Gee Note: It would appear that Hell hath no fury like a woman who's just had her car nicked by a guy carrying a Dove bar). By taking the car over state lines however John peaked the interest of the FBI.

Dillinger and his crew headed to the Little Bohemia Lodge (Gee Note: What a great name. I don't know about you but to me that sounds like the kind of place that would rent by the hour. To pimps. And cockroaches.) in Wisconsin. Among this rogues gallery of, er, rogues were the aforementioned Baby Faced Nelson and Homer Van Meter. They attempted to keep a low profile for a bit and pre-occupied themselves by monitoring the owners of the lodge, making sure they weren't going to “rat them out” (Gee Note: I actually did my best Jimmy Cagney impression out loud while writing that. If somebody was near me when I did that they'd be all like "Wow man, you should be a professional or something". And I'd be like "No way man, I'd have to go on tour with it and be all famous and stuff. And at first all the groupies and the drugs would be fun. But then I'd have to pander to the man, and my face would be, like, on a cereal box or something. And then everbody would want a piece of me, and the paparazzi would follow me everywhere. And I couldn't live like that man. I just couldn't"). Sadly all did not go according to plan, as the owners wife managed to slip away unnoticed one morning and call the authorities.

And who should step up to answer that call? Why none other than the Feds themselves. Agent Melvyn Purvis led a mini army of the best and the brightest the Bureau had to offer to the lodge. Obviously, the element of surprise would be the key in apprehending these hardcore villains. So you can imagine how disheartened they must have felt when all their sneaking was undone by two guard dogs outside the lodge starting barking furiously at them.

Except, and get this, the crooks were so used to the dogs making a racket that they didn't bat an eyelid. No, what alerted them prematurely to the FBI's arrival was the sound of gunfire as the Fed's mistook three civilians for members of Dillinger's gang and blew them away. The gang, quickly realising the FBI were idiots had surrounded them grabbed their guns and shot their way out of trouble. At the end of the gun fight each member of the gang escaped unharmed. Only one more person was killed, an agent named W. Carter Baum who was gunned down by Nelson.

Three civilians. One FBI Agent. No bad guys. To the class of 1934.

Dillinger split from the rest of his crew and headed to Chicago where, under the name of Jimmy Lawrence, he tried to carve out a normal life. Realising that the FBI must have been pretty pissed at him by this point (Gee Note: And oh boy were they. FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover was not the most stable of chaps to begin with, but he became positively enraged when he discovered what had transpired at Little Bohemia. However, rather than rethink his strategy of having Commandant Lassard train his men, he laid the blame squarely at Dillinger's door and diverted approximately one third of the FBI's entire annual budget in to bringing in the bank robber) Dillinger resorted to desperate measures to conceal his identity. He even went so far as to burn the skin of his fingers with acid, hoping that his fingerprints would either be removed forever or come back as different a set. However after going through months of agonising pain while he waited for his hand to heal, Dillinger was the first man to discover that even if skin is removed from a finger the prints will grow back exactly as they were.

Sadly John's attempts to keep hidden ended in his demise. He started dating a girl named Polly Hamilton, who soon introduced him to her friend Anna Sage. Sage recognised Dillinger from his picture in the paper and promptly contacted the FBI with her information. She offered to give Dillinger up in exchange for a free pass for her upcoming deportation back to her native land of Romania. The Feds readily agreed, and so a date and a time was set. Dillinger was to attend the the Biograph theatre on July 22nd 1934. It would be his last day alive.

The FBI rounded up as many of their own men as they could and hired a couple of gun men from police forces outside of Chicago, the theory being that Chicago's own police force had been compromised. Unfortunately because of this the FBI did not inform the powers that be within the Chicago police, and so when the Biograph's manager noticed a bunch of odd characters hanging around outside the theatre, all of whom were armed to the teeth, he assumed they were planning to rob the joint and dialled 911. Only a hasty phone call from Purvis averted the boys in blue from spoiling the FBI's party.

Upon leaving the theatre with with Hamilton and Dillinger, Sage was spotted by the FBI wearing a previously agreed upon orange dress. However, as it's been already established that stealth was hardly the Bureau's forte, Dillinger immediately knew something was up and quickly made an exit for a nearby alleyway, attempting to draw his gun in the process. Three bullets later, two in the chest and one in the neck and America's most notorious bank robber was dead.

Which is where we come in.

See the thing is, not everyone is convinced that John Dillinger died that hot summer's night.

As well as the usual Elvis like inconsistencies in the autopsy report (Gee Note: I should think of a word to sum that up, like the Chinese guy in Tremors who comes up with name GRABOIDZ to describe those huge worm things that keep eating the local folk. Elvisities? Elvisalites? Elviserons? I'll think of something.) such as the colour of Dillinger's eyes not matching the records held by police and what not, other disputable evidence cropped up. The corpse appeared to have heart condition which would have prevented Dillinger from joining the Navy or playing Baseball in jail, something which he did avidly according to the physician of Indiana State Prison. And even more curious, the gun Dillinger is reported to have drawn when shot to death was put on show at FBI headquarters until some clever button pointed out that it was the wrong pistol. After all how could Dillinger draw a gun that was manufactured five months after his death?

And then there was the letter. Posted to the Indiana Star in 1963 with a return address in Hollywood, California. The letter accompanied a photograph of on older man who looked remarkably like an aged John Dillinger.

But one thing tears all this down. Those rotten fingerprints. Despite the scarring, the prints from the body were a positive match for Dillinger.

So why all the controversy? Well take in to consideration these points. The FBI were embarrassed by the lodge incident, causing Hoover to lose the plot and divert a ton of money to the hunt for one man. The man in charge of both the assault on Little Bohemia, and in the Biograph stakeout was Agent Melvyn Purvis, who surely would have had a score to settle. And the gun apparently peeled from Dillinger's cold dead hands and proudly put on display was a fraud.

So the question should not be if it was Dillinger that was shot. Instead it should be what if Dillinger was unarmed when he was shot? What if the gun Dillinger allegedly pulled from his holster prompting the authorities to open fire never existed? If that's the case the justifacation for gunning down the man in that dark alleyway seems slim at best.

Sadly, we'll probably never know for sure. But if I'm honest I would put anything past the class of 1934.

1 comment:

Naveed said...

Wow that's a lot of speculation prompting in the beginning there. However that has prompted me to speculate that if water does exist elsewhere in the universe, the so perhaps might our cephalopod friends. Which of course will prompt speculation that perhaps the old ones might exist as well.

Other then that, I never knew how inept the FBI was back in the day. Kind of scary really. I sure hope they've gotten better.