Follow TV Tropes


Film / Bugsy Malone

Go To
Don't let your babies grow up to be gangsters.

A 1976 musical comedy film, written and directed by Alan Parker with a score by Paul Williams. The setting is a Gangsterland in The Roaring '20s — but all of the characters are played by children, and the weapons used are Edible Ammunition.

High-class gangster Dandy Dan's gang has a new weapon, the splurge gun. This means the custard pies used as weapons by their rivals, Fat Sam Stacetto's gang, just won't cut it any more...

Bugsy Malone (Scott Baio), who's somewhat affiliated with Fat Sam but not an actual member of his gang, meets Blousey Brown, an aspiring singer who's trying to get work at Fat Sam's speakeasy. Unfortunately Fat Sam is too distracted by the "war" with Dandy Dan to give her an audition.

Dandy Dan's gang splurges most of Fat Sam's gang after a tip-off turns out to be a trap. Following this catastrophe, Fat Sam tells his right-hand man and only remaining gangster, Knuckles, that everything must continue as normal, eventually giving Blousey her audition, which she aces. However, right before the audition Blousey sees Fat Sam's moll, Tallulah (Jodie Foster), flirting with Bugsy; although he rejected her advances, Blousey doesn't know this and gets angry with him.

Meanwhile Fat Sam hires Bugsy to drive him and his "specialist" Looney Burgonzie to ambush Dandy Dan at a meeting; it fails. Bugsy and Sam get away and Sam gives Bugsy extra money for his quick thinking.

Bugsy and Blousey make up and he reveals he has enough money for two train tickets to Hollywood; however, as he returns the car he borrowed from Sam to the garage, he is mugged and loses the money. Leroy Smith saves him with what Bugsy calls some impressive punching. Bugsy takes Leroy to Cagey Joe's gym to see if he can make it as a boxer.

Sam once again enlists Bugsy's aid, offering him $400 this time, but Blousey is not happy to hear of the delay, and hangs up on him and she is angry with herself for thinking that she could trust Bugsy. Bugsy and Leroy then follow Dan's men to Dock 17, where they discover the guns are being stashed. The two of them realise that they can't take the place alone, but they unwittingly find a large group of down-and-out workers who are having their free lunch, and Bugsy persuades them to join him. They ambush the dock guards, steal the guns and make it back to the speakeasy in time to counter the attack by Dan's Gang. Chaos ensues until they are stopped by a chord from Razzamataz, the pianist. Everybody has been splurged except Bugsy and Blousey (though it is unclear whether anyone is actually 'dead'), and the movie concludes with a final song about everyone realising they can be friends.

A Screen-to-Stage Adaptation premiered on London's West End in 1983, directed by Mickey Dolenz and featuring Catherine Zeta-Jones as Tallulah.


  • Abnormal Ammo / Edible Ammunition: Custard pies and splurge guns (which are basically tommy-guns that fire blobs of custard cream).
  • Advertised Extra: Jodie Foster really doesn't play that much of a large role in the movie, really just being there to be Fat Sam's girlfriend and looked like she was going to play a Betty and Veronica type role with Blousey but that never really went anywhere. Since she became a huge star in the years following this movie, though, she usually receives top billing, even over Scott Baio who of course played the titular character.
  • Affably Evil: The main antagonist, Dandy Dan, is very polite, charming and likeable, if a Bad Boss. Sam, who is on the good side, is much ruder and more aggressive, though he is a much better boss.
  • Alliterative Name: Blousey Brown, Sam Staccato, Dandy Dan, and Roxy Robinson.
  • Ambiguous Ending: Exactly how ambiguous it is depends on where you stand in terms of the Never Say "Die" aspect of the film. Word of God states that the entire movie is essentially one big game and getting "splurged" merely means you are out of the game (similar to paintball), but it's not uncommon for people to come up with some pretty dark "real world" interpretations of that last food fight...
  • Anti-Hero: Fat Sam's gang is little better than Dandy Dan's. Both mob bosses have no qualms about treating their subordinates like dirt and both even use them for target practice. The difference? Fat Sam's guys are near-utterly incompetent.
  • Anything but That!: Doodle says this, verbatim, in an Oh, Crap! moment when he realises Dandy Dan plans to kill him.
  • Artistic License – History: Bugsy quotes the film On the Waterfront — "I coulda been a contender, Charlie". A film made 30 years after Bugsy is set...
  • Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: Fat Sam and Tallulah spend most of the movie bickering but during the big finale, he puts his arm around her and kisses her on the cheek as they laugh and sing together, still covered in gunge.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Played straight with Blousey, who escapes from the final pie fight with barely a drop on her. Deliriously averted with Tallulah, who gets extremely Pied In The Face at the climax, along with basically every other girl in the scene.
  • Betty and Veronica: Blousey is the Betty, Tallulah is the Veronica.
  • Bright Reprise: The final song is a reprise of "Bad Guys" in which the gangsters sing about turning over a new leaf and being Good Guys from now on.
  • The Casanova: Fat Sam describes Bugsy this way in his opening narration: "A little too popular with the broads for my liking, but a nice guy."
  • The Chanteuse: Tallulah.
  • Card-Carrying Villain: Fat Sam's gang singing "Bad Guys": "We're the best at being bad!"
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Looney Burgonzie.
  • Comic-Book Adaptation: Graham Thompson illustrated a comic tie in.
  • Cool Car: You know you(r children) just wanted one of those pedal-driven 20s cars.
  • Covert Group with Mundane Front: Pop Becker's Bookstore is the front for Fat Sam's speakeasy. Lest you think this is only in the stage version, recall that the bookstore also appears in the beginning of the movie, as well as in a shot showing Babyface as he alerts the gang to Dandy Dan's presence.
  • Cute, but Cacophonic: Lena Marelli, which is to be expected seeing as she was played by Bonnie Langford.
  • Deadpan Snarker:
    Tallulah: [splat] So this is show business.
    • Bugsy and Blousey have their moments too.
  • Dwindling Party: Fat Sam's gang. Louis, Snake Eyes, Angelo and Ritzy are splurged in a tip-off that turns out to be a trap, leaving just Sam and Knuckles. The latter himself is killed by an experimental weapon, leaving Sam to turn to Bugsy for help and protection.
  • Fun with Subtitles: Early in the film, a frustrated Fat Sam says something in Italian to Knuckles, who doesn't understand on account of being Jewish. Fat Sam tells him to read the subtitles.
  • Gainax Ending: The film climaxes with a shootout/pie fight, which Razzmatazz interrupts. Then, suddenly, everybody just starts singing. This is especially weird when it's previously been implied that splurge guns are stand-ins for real guns, with Fat Sam breaking down over Knuckles' "death". Although, Knuckles also gets splurged in the shoulder early on with no visible ill effects.
  • Genius Ditz: Implied to have been the case with Roxy Robinson. In his short appearance, he looks and acts like a stereotypical nerd, but if Fat Sam's opening narration is anything to go by: "Roxy had spent his whole life making two and two into five. But he could smell trouble like other people could smell gas." Fat Sam even calls Roxy "one of [his] best" after his death, further supporting the idea of him having been one of these.
  • Good Is Not Nice: Fat Sam has shades of this.
  • A Good Name for a Rock Band: British rapper, Bugzy Malone named himself after this movie.
  • Goshdang It To Heck: Since it's a kids' film, there's odd words used in place of swearing.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Eveyone in the final song:
    We could've been anything that we wanted to be,
    And I'm not saying we should,
    But if we try it, we'll learn to abide it,
    We could be the best at being good.
  • Heroes Gone Fishing:
    • Fat Sam invites Knuckles to watch Tallulah sing after arranging the meeting with Dandy Dan.
    • After being paid $200 by Fat Sam after the meeting mentioned above, Bugsy takes Blousey for a trip to a lake and then buys hot dogs for them both.
  • Hypocritical Humour: Sam arranges a one-on-one (technically two-on-two since they each allow an unarmed driver) meeting with Dan, planning to ambush him with an accomplice to take him out...only to find once they get to the meet that Dan had exactly the same idea. Sam's response? To repeatedly call Dan a rat for double-crossing him, conveniently forgetting that he was intending the same manoeuvre.
  • Kosher Nostra: Knuckles.
    Fat Sam: Don't you speak Italiano?!
    Knuckles: No, boss. I'm Jewish.
  • Lighter and Fluffier: Than history! Interestingly, director Alan Parker went on to direct (among other films) the much darker musical The Wall. The story goes that Parker was inspired to make this film after refusing to let his son watch The Godfather. He even throws in a subtle reference to Godfather II (watch out for two guys carrying a carpet during "Bad Guys").
  • Literal Metaphor: One of Fat Sam's workers says he can't stop Dandy Dan's gang because "he's all tied up" (he's actually tied up). Fat Sam replies "I don't care how busy you are."
  • The Mafia: Spoofed to the extremes!
  • Meaningful Name: Fat Sam is, well, fat. He even lampshades it in the opening narration.
    Fat Sam: My name is Sam. Fat Sam, on account of my physique.
  • Meet Cute: Bugsy and Blousey.
  • Medium Awareness: Fat Sam says something in Italian. But his henchman, Knuckles, is Jewish and doesn't understand Italian. He is told to read the translation as the subtitle appears onscreen.
  • Neighborhood-Friendly Gangsters: Fat Sam and his Gang are sort of the good guys in the story, although they are of course still gangsters. (It helps that Fat Sam is a much nicer employer than Dandy Dan.)
  • Nerf Arm: Pies are deadly — not as deadly as Splurge Guns, though.
  • Never Say "Die": Characters who are pied or splurged disappear from the action. They're said to be "finished" rather than dead. Everybody who gets splurged in the big showdown is still lively enough during the final song.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Doodle when he realises Dandy Dan is going to kill him for failing him.
    • Dandy Dan's gang at the end when Bugsy's arm opens fire on them with the pilfered splurge guns.
  • Only Sane Man: Arguably Bugsy.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: An interesting take. When things has gone badly for Fat Sam, he attempts to subvert this by acting as normal as possible. The problem is, Fat Sam is usually so very busy. When he suddenly is not busy and takes his time with other things to show that there is no problem it becomes his out-of-character moment. So if someone paid attention to how kind and social Fat Sam suddenly became, they would possibly catch wind of that something was very wrong. Nobody did, though. On the other hand, it did mean Blousey got her job.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Somewhat inevitable considering the cast was made up predominantly of British pre-teens having to do New York accents - most of them do so admirably but pretty much all the non-Americans in the cast who have speaking lines have instances of their natural accents coming through.
  • Overly-Long Gag: "Get Babyface," and "Pass this to Babyface".
  • Pie in the Face: Edible Ammunition-style.
  • Pop-Star Composer: Paul Williams; some of the dubbed singing voices for the kids are his vocals.
  • Power of Friendship: Focus of the last song, along with:
  • Power of Love
  • The Prima Donna: Lina Marelli.
    Lina Marelli: Oscar! Oscar! I'm back! I'll give you one more chance, you hear me? I'll give you one more chance, you hear me, Oscar? Otherwise I'm out for good! Out, out, out! I'm not being humiliated in this place! You know I am the star and I should be treated like it absolutely all the time!
  • Redshirt: Roxy Robinson.
  • Scarecrow Solution: Implied near the end of the film, when most of Fat Sam’s henchmen are gone, he sets up cardboard cutouts in his office to cast silhouettes on the wall outside.
  • Smug Snake: Dandy Dan.
  • Surrounded by Idiots:
    • Fat Sam with his gang, while Dandy Dan's are slightly more competent.
    • Bugsy himself.
  • Terrible Interviewees Montage: Blousey's fellow auditionees at the theatre, including a dire stand up comedian couple, a bad ventriloquist and a dancing chorus line who fall over and break the scenery.
  • There Are No Adults: It's an entire cast of children!
  • Villain Song: "Bad Guys", sung by Fat Sam's gang. (They're closer to Anti-Hero status, with Dandy Dan's gang being the villains, but Dandy Dan's gang doesn't get their own number.)
    We coulda been anything that we wanted to be
    With all the talent we had
    But we decided, a fact we take pride in,
    To be the very best at being bad.
  • The Voiceless: Roxy Robinson.
  • You Have Failed Me: Dandy Dan custard pies one of his own men, Doodle, for dropping a splurge gun during an escape. He picked it up, but Dan still sees this as enough reason to exact this trope in response.

Specific to the stage version:

  • Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves: In the stage version Shady gives Fat Sam information that will lead his men into a trap, he then collects his money from Dandy Dan only to be killed (splurged) while walking away. Dandy Dan takes back his money commenting he can't stand traitors.