Mad Dog Coll (1961)

Mad Dog Coll (1961)

“Whoever shot and murdered these little kids is a human animal — he’s worse than an animal, he’s a beast; he’s a mad dog!”

Psychopathic gangster Mad Dog Coll (John Chandler) vies for dominance over rival Dutch Schultz (Vincent Gardenia) while romancing an exotic dancer (Kay Doubleday).


  • Biopics
  • Gangsters
  • Rise-and-Fall

After the success of Murder, Inc. (1960) (which he co-directed with Stuart Rosenberg), Burt Balaban helmed this similarly themed Depression-era biopic about sociopathic mobster “Mad Dog” Coll (Chandler), who was infamously gunned down in a Manhattan phone booth in 1932. The film provides cursory glimpses into Coll’s troubled childhood, but mostly focuses on his quick rise to fame and rapid descent into death (he was killed at the age of 23). The storyline — primarily focusing on Coll’s rivalry with Dutch Schultz, and his wooing of an exotic dancer — isn’t all that distinctive; and while Chandler is effective at portraying Coll’s sociopathic tendencies, he doesn’t offer much depth or insight into the character. What’s most notable are the fine supporting performances throughout, including Jerry Orbach as Coll’s loyal but increasingly ambivalent childhood friend, Vincent Gardenia as Coll’s arch-enemy Schultz, Telly Savalas (in his feature film debut) as a police lieutenant, and Kay Doubleday as Coll’s girlfriend (whose love of the finer things in life blinds her to Coll’s violent tendencies).

P.S. DVD Savant notes in his review of Murder, Inc. that this hard-to-find film is a cult favorite, though it’s not listed as such in Peary’s book.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Creative opening credits
  • Kay Doubleday as Coll’s girlfriend, Clio
  • Fine supporting performances

Must See?
No, but it’s worth a look if you happen to catch it.


One thought on “Mad Dog Coll (1961)

  1. First viewing. Not must-see and in complete agreement with the assessment.

    Not bad, for what it is – but there’s really nothing in it that sets it apart from other films of its type. As that soon becomes apparent, the film slowly begins to run out of steam (the odd tense sequence notwithstanding).

    There’s the occasional good line of dialogue: i.e., “Save your tough talk for somebody’s got somethin’ to lose by dying.”

    Orbach, Gardenia and Savalas raise the level of the film – enough to make it watchable but not necessarily one to seek out. (Blink and you’ll miss Gene Hackman in his, ahem, ‘debut’ – as a cop.)

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