When Fritz Lang filmed it in 1938 (as You Only Live Once), the story had a metaphysical thrust. When Nicholas Ray filmed it in 1948 (They Live by Night), it was romantic and doom laden. But by the time Arthur Penn got to it in 1967, it was pure myth, the distillation of dozens of drive-in movies about rebellious kids and their defeat at the hands of the establishment. It's by far the least controlled of Penn's films (the tone wobbles between hick satire and noble social portraiture, and the issue of violence is displayed more than it's examined), but the pieces work wonderfully well, propelled by what was then a very original acting style. With Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway, Gene Hackman, Estelle Parsons, Michael J. Pollard, and Gene Wilder.
By Dave Kehr