Bad Charleston Charlie

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Bad Charleston Charlie
Bad Charleston Charlie movie poster.jpg
Style A US movie poster
Directed byIvan Nagy[1]
Produced byRoss Hagen[2]
Written byRoss Hagen
Ivan Nagy
StarringRoss Hagen
Kelly Thordsen
Hoke Howell
Dal Jenkins
Carmen Zapata
John Carradine
Music byLuchi De Jesus
CinematographyMichael Neyman
Edited byRichard Garritt
Walter A. Thompson
Distributed byInternational Cinema Corp.
Release date
Running time
90 minutes

Bad Charleston Charlie is a 1973 comedy film written by and starring actor Ross Hagen and directed by Ivan Nagy.[1][3] The film, rated PG by the Motion Picture Association of America, was distributed by International Cinema Corporation.[4] The film is loosely based on the life and death of 1920s gangster Charles Birger. Poorly received by both critics and audiences, the film has yet to be released on DVD or Blu-ray Disc.


Set during the 1920s in the Midwestern United States, the movie revolves around two coal miners, Charlie Jacobs (Ross Hagen) and Thad (Kelly Thordsen), who decide to follow a life a crime like their role model, Al Capone.[5] Jacobs adopts the gangster persona "Bad Charleston Charlie", an anachronistic reference to the 1962 song "Charleston Charlie". The duo has to deal with forming a gang, learn to handle "wild women", bribe corrupt officials, and battle rival gangs plus the Ku Klux Klan.[6] They find that they are no better at being gangsters than they were at mining coal.[7] The film features a cameo from legendary actor John Carradine as a drunken reporter.[6]


The film's advertising tagline was "The most desperate gang of all...ALMOST!"


Also appearing in the film were Jon Dalk, Claire Hagen, Paul Gregory White, Robert Lockhart, Karen Anders, Randy Proctor, Lenny Geer, Ivan Nagy, Suzanne Kent, Rose Barton, Richard Lockmiller, Noel De Souza, Leo Rousseau, and Warhol "superstar" Ultra Violet.[12]

Production info[edit]

Bad Charleston Charlie was directed by Hungarian still photographer Ivan Nagy and produced by Ross Hagen.[2][5][8] The independent film was produced through a joint venture between Triforum Inc., a company wholly owned by Hagen and Nagy, and Studio 9 Productions.[10][13] The production encountered financing problems when, in May 1972, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filed a complaint against Studio 9 Productions, Bad Charleston Charlie Associates, and others for "violations of the registration and anti-fraud provisions of the Federal securities laws in connection with the offer and sale of Studio 9 Productions common stock and Bad Charleston limited partnership interests."[14] On June 5, 1972, Bad Charleston Charlie Associates and Studio 9 Productions "consented to a finding" (without admitting guilt) that they had violated Federal law and they accepted a final judgment of permanent injunction against future such sales.[15]

The screenplay was written by Ross Hagen, Ivan Nagy, and actor Stan Kamber from a story by Hagen and Nagy.[8][12] The director of photography was Michael Neyman. The film was edited by Walter A. Thompson and Richard Garritt. The film's music was composed by Luchi DeJesus with sound by William Oliver.[9] Raymond Markham served as art director and Eric Lidberg was the assistant director. The movie was filmed in Eastmancolor and released with a PG (parental guidance suggested) rating from the Motion Picture Association of America.[8][10]

The Real Charlie[edit]

The film is a highly stylized and fictionalized version of the life and exploits of real-life coal miner turned gangster Shachna Itzik "Charlie" Birger.[16] Born in 1881, Birger served in the United States Army from 1901 to 1904. After his honorable discharge he became a cowboy, a coal miner, then later a saloon keeper. In 1920, after the passage of the Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution began the era of Prohibition when the "manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors" was made illegal, Birger became a bootlegger. He was at war with the Shelton Brothers Gang for control of (illegal) alcohol sales across Southern Illinois until the Ku Klux Klan began to take over Williamson County. The rival gangs worked together to violently purge the KKK from the area, gunning down its local leaders in 1925 and 1926. With the Klan gone by late 1926, Birger returned to his fight with the Shelton Brothers. When he discovered that Joe Adams, the mayor of West City, Illinois, was assisting the Sheltons, Birger threatened Adams and ultimately ordered his murder. Birger was arrested in June 1927, convicted, and hanged in April 1928. He was to be the last man executed by public hanging in the state of Illinois.[16][17] (Another Illinois convict, Charles Shader, was executed by hanging in October 1928 but that execution was not open to the public.)[16]



The film was scheduled to make its world premiere with a benefit screening on April 13, 1973.[18] This debut was delayed until Tuesday, May 8, 1973, when the film finally debuted at a charity event hosted by actress Angie Dickinson.[19] This premiere took place at the Avco Center Theater (now the "AMC Avco Center 4") in the Westwood neighborhood of Los Angeles. The event raised money for the Oakhill School for Emotionally Handicapped Children and the Reiss-Davis Clinic.[19] The film began playing in the greater Los Angeles area soon after with a national rollout in June 1973.[10]

Critical reception[edit]

Reviewing the film in May 1973 on its initial release, Kevin Thomas of the Los Angeles Times wrote, "Bad Charleston Charlie is not merely bad but terrible."[3] The filmmakers quoted another part of Thomas' review in their advertising, attempting to spin the negative into a positive: "Spoofery in nonsensical shenanigans are meant to be the order of the day."[4] Modern critics have been no kinder. VideoHound's Golden Movie Retriever gave the film its lowest-possible "Woof!" rating and asked in its review of the film, "Dud of a gangster comedy with terrible acting. A comedy?"[20] The Motion Picture Guide gives the film a zero-star rating, calling it a "rancid period-piece" with a "cast of no-names".[21] TV Guide rates the film at zero-stars citing "incompetent" direction and noting that Bad Charleston Charlie "is said to have been [John Carradine's] 401st movie" but that he "should have quit at 400"."[5]

Largely forgotten today, even by most cult movie fans, the film remains unrated at Rotten Tomatoes where they have failed to tally a single review for it.[22] However, several consumer products associated with the film are currently commercially available, including reproductions of the original movie poster,[23] a life-sized standee of the title character,[24] and a women's party costume sold by major retailers including Meijer and Sears.[25][26] The costume includes a "20's inspired evening dress with beaded hip drape and circle sleeves", a cloche hat "with contrasting pleated band and accented with feathers, sequins, and a flower", plus a "single-strand beaded necklace".[25]

Home media[edit]

Bad Charleston Charlie was first released on September 16, 1987, by Home Cinema Corporation in both the VHS and Betamax videocassette formats.[6]

In July 2001, LSI Communications Inc., a company then best known for releasing the Karl Malone's Body Shop series of workout videos, acquired the rights to Bad Charleston Charlie (along with Gregorio and His Angel starring Broderick Crawford and The Caged Man) from Cinevision Inc. The terms of the deal were not disclosed.[27] LSI Communications merged with Peregrine Inc. using a reverse stock swap in February 2002 and shed a number of assets in the ensuing reorganization.[28] In late 2008, the Los Angeles Times reported that this "lousy 1970s movie" was available on videotape but not on DVD.[4]

Selected clips from the film can be seen as part of the Ross Hagen-directed 1985 compilation horror movie Reel Horror, available on DVD from Peacock Films.[29]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "'Charleston Charlie' Director to Lecture". Los Angeles Times. March 12, 1973. p. E118. Retrieved December 1, 2010.
  2. ^ a b Albright, Brian (2008). "Hollywood Hellcat: Ross Hagen". Wild Beyond Belief: Interviews with Exploitation Filmmakers of the 1960s and 1970s. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc. p. 59. ISBN 978-0-7864-3689-7. Retrieved December 1, 2010.
  3. ^ a b Thomas, Kevin (May 10, 1973). "'Charlie' a Story of Would-be Gangsters". Los Angeles Times. p. G31. Retrieved November 30, 2010.
  4. ^ a b c Harnisch, Larry (December 28, 2007). "Before YouTube". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved November 30, 2010.
  5. ^ a b c d "Bad Charleston Charlie: Cast & Details". TV Guide. Retrieved December 1, 2010.
  6. ^ a b c "Home Video Guide: Comedy". The Palm Beach Post. September 11, 1987. p. 22. Retrieved November 30, 2010.
  7. ^ a b "Bad Charleston Charlie (1973)". Blockbuster Video. Archived from the original on March 29, 2012. Retrieved December 1, 2010.
  8. ^ a b c d Willis, John A. (October 1974). "Bad Charleston Charlie". Screen World 1974. Crown Publishers. p. 127. ISBN 978-0-517-51532-7. Retrieved December 1, 2010.
  9. ^ a b "Bad Charleston Charlie (1973)". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved December 1, 2010.
  10. ^ a b c d "Bad Charleston Charlie (1973)". Film & TV Database. British Film Institute. Retrieved December 1, 2010.
  11. ^ "Movie Call Sheet; Milland, Crawford Set for 'Terror'". Los Angeles Times. November 12, 1972. p. G27. Retrieved December 1, 2010.
  12. ^ a b Focus on Film, Issues 13-23. Tantivy Press. 1973. Retrieved December 2, 2010.
  13. ^ Martin, Betty (May 12, 1970). "Hagen, Nagy Form Company". Los Angeles Times. p. E10. Retrieved December 1, 2010.
  14. ^ "Complaint Names Bad Charleston Charlie Associates, Others" (PDF). Securities and Exchange Commission News Digest (72–95). Washington, DC: U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. May 18, 1972. Retrieved December 2, 2010.
  15. ^ "Court Enforcement Actions: Two Enjoined in Chicago" (PDF). Securities and Exchange Commission News Digest (72–125). Washington, DC: U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. June 30, 1972. Retrieved December 2, 2010.
  16. ^ a b c DeNeal, Gary (1998). A Knight of Another Sort: Prohibition Days and Charlie Birger (2nd ed.). Danville, Illinois: The Interstate Printers & Publishers. p. xxiv. ISBN 0-8093-2216-1.
  17. ^ "Dodging Dynamiters". Time Magazine. February 21, 1927. Archived from the original on 25 November 2010. Retrieved December 1, 2010.
  18. ^ "'Charleston Charlie' Bows April 13 at Avco Center". BoxOffice. March 26, 1973. p. W4.
  19. ^ a b "Angie Dickinson to Host Premiere". Los Angeles Times. May 3, 1973. p. G14. Retrieved December 2, 2010.
  20. ^ "Bad Charleston Charlie". VideoHound's Golden Movie Retriever 1996. Detroit, MI: Visible Ink Press. 1996. p. 193. ISBN 0-7876-0626-X.
  21. ^ Nash, Jay Robert; Ross, Stanley Ralph (1985). The Motion Picture Guide, Volume 1. Cinebooks.
  22. ^ "Bad Charleston Charlie (1973)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved December 1, 2010.
  23. ^ "Bad Charleston Charlie - 27 x 40 Movie Poster - Style A". MovieGood, Inc. Archived from the original on January 29, 2013. Retrieved December 1, 2010.
  24. ^ "Advanced Graphics 134 Charleston Charlie Life-Sized Cardboard Stand-Up". Archived from the original on July 17, 2011. Retrieved December 1, 2010. Life-sized cardboard stand-up of Charleston Charlie from the movie Bad Charleston Charlie.
  25. ^ a b "Charleston Charlie Women's Costume (Item # 61243)". Meijer. Retrieved December 1, 2010.
  26. ^ "Charleston Charlie Adult Costume". Sears. Retrieved December 1, 2010.
  27. ^ "LSI Communications Inc. Acquires Motion Pictures from Cinevision" (Press release). Business Wire. July 17, 2001. Retrieved December 1, 2010. The other two films acquired by LSI are "Bad Charleston Charlie" starring John Carradine, and "The Caged Man."
  28. ^ "LSI Communications, Inc. Announces Closing Agreement And Plan of Reorganization With Peregrine, Inc" (Press release). Goliath Business News. February 5, 2002. Retrieved December 1, 2010.
  29. ^ Josh G. (February 26, 2008). "Reel Horror (1985)". Oh, The Horror. Retrieved December 1, 2010.

External links[edit]