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Bugsy Malone Review

Updated on June 28, 2020

Bugsy Malone (1976) review

Combining genres in films is a great way to make a movie stand out and be unique and interesting, and this film takes that concept and creates something truly special. This film combines music and gangsters in a wonderful display of contrasting themes that make for a truly satisfying and endearing narrative. Not to mention the twist that makes this an experience I won’t soon forget.

Bugsy Malone (1976) was written and directed by Alan Parker and stars Scott Baio, Jodie Foster, John Cassisi and Martin Lev. Set in a fictional version of New York City, this gangster spoof is loosely based on the events during prohibition when men like Al Capone and Bugs Moran ran the streets. The twist? They are all kids! They sing and dance through the streets and replace guns with whipped cream launchers, but make no mistake, if you get hit you are “finished”.

I grew up heavily involved in musical theater, and I also would put movies like Goodfellas and Casino in my top ten favorite movies of all time, so needless to say this film was a treat. However the unique premise was not enough to carry the movie by itself. The musical numbers in this film were all memorable and catchy, songs you will find yourself humming days from now (I know I will). All the kids very obviously lip sync every song but it doesn’t pull away from the charm of the movie.

The acting from these children was very impressive as well. You can just tell these kids had the time of their lives filming this movie and that energy made their performances shine. The two stand outs were Scott Baio and Jodie Foster, who of course go on to have long successful careers.

There are some people out there who are not fans of musicals because they don’t want to see a bunch of singing and dancing in a movie. To them, I say that my friend who suggested this movie to me loathes musicals more than anyone else I know, and he loves Bugsy Malone. All in all, I would recommend this to families that want to sit down and watch a movie that has a little bit for everyone, even dad.

Cast trivia

  • All of the cast were 16 or under during filming. The average age was 12.
  • When looking for Fat Sam, director Alan Parker went to a Brooklyn classroom and asked who was the naughtiest boy in class. The entire class replied John Cassisi, who subsequently got the part.
  • Florence Garland was at first only given a minor part - until the original actress meant to play Blousey underwent a growth spurt and became taller than Bugsy (Scott Baio). Florence was then given the role of Blousey.
  • This was the debut theatrical feature film for actor Dexter Fletcher.
  • The casting call took a whole year to complete. Alan Parker auditioned around 10,000 kids for this film.
  • This was the directorial debut for Alan Parker.
  • All of the girls in the production had a crush on Scott Baio, but Scott and Jodie Foster admit to kissing after hours.
  • Mark Curry was considered for the title role.
  • Reportedly, Scott Baio was cast even after he had slammed his script down and stormed out of his audition.

Production trivia

  • The budget for Bugsy Malone was 575,000 dollars. The worldwide gross was 2.7 million dollars.
  • This movie was released on September 15, 1976. It was produced by The Rank Organization and Distributed by Paramount Pictures.
  • This movie was mainly filmed in Buckinghamshire, England.
  • All singing was dubbed by adult vocalists.
  • The splurge guns did not actually fire the "splurge". Parker first tried wax balls filled with cream but these hurt when fired, so in the end the splurge guns actually fired ping pong balls, which the actors fired at nothing and what we see on-screen is clever editing with shots of the actors being hit by handfuls of cream thrown at them by others.
  • The film performed well in England and Japan, but Paramount gave it a limited release in US theaters, usually dumping it onto second-feature screens with the re-release of The Bad News Bears.
  • This movie was filmed during the summer of 1975.
  • Paul Williams wrote all the music for this film, and sang many of Bugsy's lines for Scott Baio.
  • The scene of the Bijou Theatre tryouts was shot at the Richmond Theatre.
  • The Chinese laundry scene was shot in an old public bath building in the East End.
  • Alan Parker mentioned that the Splurge Inc. warehouse on dock 17 was a "disused" Huntley & Palmer biscuit factory in Reading.
  • Over a thousand cream pies were thrown during the making of the movie.
  • The pedal-driven cars could achieve a maximum speed of around 10 mph. They were all custom-built by hand and each cost around the same amount of money as a regular road-going Mini at the time.
  • The film used 1000 gallons of synthetic cream for the splurge guns. The original plan was to use shaving cream, but it was a ballistic failure and it hurt the actors' eyes.
  • The official paperwork to allow children to work in the movie was mountainous. Every child actor had to have an individual medical exam and work permit. More than 33 English councils were involved, as well as bureaucracy in New York and Los Angeles.
  • Up to 6 teachers were on hand during production in a special full-time school adapted to space at Pinewood Studios. The improvised educational facility had to handle various teaching grades and levels from students within a five year age span and also from two different countries.
  • A Chief Local Welfare Officer visited the set every other day to check and inspect that correct procedures were being adhered to.


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