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Wow, this was a neat little film, far better than I had hoped. I don't
tape many shows on TV, but this was one I'm sure glad I did, especially
since it is not available on VHS or DVD.
I say "little" film because it's only 67 minutes long. Richard Fleischer, who directed THE NARROW MARGIN (1952), another short and fast-moving crime story, directed this movie, too, and you can see some similarities. The major similarity is how fast-paced these films are. Another is the presence of one of the best 'B' tough guys ever: Charles McGraw.
Because of that, and it's so interesting to view, it's one I plan on viewing a number of times. McGraw, as the cop, and William Talman, as the leader of the gang, are fun to watch.
It's a heist tale and most of the film is about the gang trying to escape after the robbery and what happens to each one. In that regards, it reminds me a bit of another great film: THE ASPHALT JUNGLE, which also came out at this time. This isn't up to that level, but it's good and highly recommended viewing if you see it listed on TCM, where I saw it.
Director Richard Fleischer was responsible for two of the best of the low-budget '50s cops-n-robbers flicks, both notable for starring Charles McGraw, one of the great movie bad guys, as a tough detective. One, "The Narrow Margin," is quite well known; this is the other one, and while not as well known, it certainly should be. The story is about a vicious gang of robbers, headed by a murderous psychopath (William Talman, who seemed to have a corner on that market in the '50s), pulls off an armored car robbery that goes awry. Detective McGraw is out to track down the gang. The film is a textbook example of the best of the B movie--swiftly paced, tightly edited, with a good story and a cast of veteran character actors that work together like a well-oiled machine. Some clever plot twists and startling (for the time) violence make this one a keeper. Very highly recommended.
Remembered mostly as Hamilton Berger, TV's Perry Mason's opponent always doomed to fail, William Talman radiates with star quality as the anti-hero in this taut programmer. With few words and with no fanfare, Talman etches a finely tuned portrayal of a brainy and fussy gangster. The man is a portrait of self-discipline and clean-living except that he is a crook. Charles McGraw does well as his adversary, the detective, but it's Talman who captures our imagination and leaves indelible imprint on our minds as the meticulous crook who has figured out everything to the most infinitessimal detail. There's just one thing he doesn't know: this is an early 50's movie, so his character must learn that crime doesn't pay!
Robert Fleischer's film Armored Car Robbery is, in many aspects, a
straightforward heist movie. It features all of the usual suspects,
including a bunch of ragtag tough guys, a heartless dame who only cares
about the promise of lots of 'lettuce', and a lantern jawed, square
shouldered cop who deep down really cares about his partner. These
caricatures are expected and well played; what was a surprise was how
well William Talman filled a role a less skilled performer might have
slept through. Talman, who played the leader of the gang, infused his
character with a flinty, almost sociopathic nature that plays as
believable and chilling. Additionally, the movie had great momentum,
one that moved a somewhat predicable plot forward at a gripping and
All of the actors gave good to excellent performances, though Charles McGraw's character was a smidge too one dimensional at times, as he spoke his clipped sentences through gritted teeth and wore the heroic big suit like a comic book lieutenant. Still, an enjoyable heist film that won't disappoint fans of the crime or noir genres. Some lovely visuals as well!
Richard Fleischer's Armored Car Robbery is a lean little heist thriller,
from which Stanley Kubrick apparently borrowed a thing or two six years
later for The Killing. In a refreshing preview of truth in packaging, the
title pretty much sums it up: it's the few-frills story of a criminal gang
who knocks over a payroll truck at Los Angeles' Wrigley Field, followed by
the inevitable falling out of thieves and their pursuit by John
Coming together are several of the second string of noir actors. Charles McGraw stays as gruff as a minion of the law as he was as a menace to society; he takes the heist heavily because his partner was killed in the shoot-out. Leader of the gang is ruthless William Talman, who starred in almost as many noirs as Raymond Burr, for whom he was to co-star in the Perry Mason television franchise; while falling just shy of Burr's opulent evil, he could seed a few nightmares himself. And bringing up the distaff side is tough blonde Adele Jergens, here a `Burly-Q' headliner who never seems to lose her heavy white stole. She's making hay with Talman even though her older husband, on his uppers, also dies as a result of the truck robbery (when he pleads for a doctor for his gunshot wound, Talman shoots him, muttering his mantra `No loose ends').
Fleischer, son of legendary animator Max, was not one of the poets of the noir cycle but a wrap-it-up director with a racing pulse; The Narrow Margin (also starring McGraw) remains his best-known film. In later years he directed a number of big action pictures, few of any real distinction. His metier was probably these brief, shoestring programmers, because bigger budgets and longer running times slowed him up and made him ponderous (viz. Tora! Tora! Tora!). Armored Car Robbery endures as a testament to how good he was with the swift and blunt approach.
By all odds the best B noir I've seen, and I've seen a number of them. William Talman and Charles McGraw are both outstanding as always, and though it may verge on the heretical, I have to say that I prefer Armored Car Robbery to the same director's justly-famous The Narrow Margin, also starring McGraw. About as tough as they come, and all wrapped up in under 70 minutes. Be on the lookout for this to turn up on cable(TCM or AMC), and don't miss it when it does!
Great B-movie cast with many nice touches. Everybody's favorite 50's
psycho William Talman heads the heist gang, looking almost suave and
sleek at times. He even gets to kiss the girl, probably the only time
in his career. Too bad he turned legit on the old Perry Mason show.
That fine utility actor Steve Brodie has some good moments too, along
with a sneering Douglas Fowley and a blue-collar Gene Evans. And, oh
yes, mustn't forget the great cheap blonde of the era, Adele Jergens,
all decked out in her best Victoria's Secret finery. Her strip show may
be on the tame side, but we get the idea. And in dogged police pursuit,
the ever-forceful Charles McGraw who could play either side of the
legal fence with jut-jawed persuasion. There's a thousand slices of
A-grade thick ear wrapped up in this hard-boiled assembly.
Then too, director Fleischer makes all the deft moves-- the balky car, the gruesome corpse. Maybe somebody forgot the utility bill, but there's a real change of mood half-way through, when the screen shifts from high-key daylight to low-key noir as the shadows and bodies pile up. Yeah, you've probably seen it all before, but rarely done this well and with an Oscar night of B-movie all-stars. Too bad, Stanley Kubrick didn't acknowledge this modest programmer when he lifted the caper film to artistic heights in The Killing (1956). As he learned, prop washes make a superb visual blender for loose dollar bills, along with a lasting note of dramatic irony. Acknowledged or not, this little potboiler has all the earmarks of RKO's golden age of take-no-prisoners noir.
Wow, was I ever impressed by this little film. While ARMORED CAR
ROBBERY is not an especially sexy title and the film possesses no real
star power, it is a wonderfully effective and superbly written little
B-movie directed by a young Richard Fleischer. So far in his career
Fleischer had directed some shorts and a couple undistinguished films
and it was several years before he gained fame with THE NARROW MARGIN
(also a wonderful B-film starring Charles McGraw), THE VIKINGS and
SOYLENT GREEN. So, since he was an unknown, they gave him mostly
unknowns for the film. The biggest name in it was Charles McGraw--a
great heavy and supporting actor who'd been around but still hadn't
made a name for himself. Additionally, William Talman plays the leader
of the bad guys and while you most likely won't recognize his name, he
is the man who played Hamilton Burger on the "Perry Mason" TV show.
While McGraw was as wonderful as I'd expected since I'd seen him in quite a few great Film Noir movies, I was particularly impressed by Talman. As Ham Burger, he was a bland and one-note character--the jerk who ALWAYS lost to Perry Mason. But here, he was a very cold, calculating and scary man because he was so believable and amoral. It's a darn shame that this role didn't result in better roles--he really showed he could act.
The film is naturally about an armored car robbery and it was rather straight-forward in its plotting. However, because the dialog and the rest of the writing was so true to life, it really jumped out at me. While it did have a few great Noir-like lines (spoken mostly by the great McGraw), it emphasized reality over style and seemed like a very honest crime drama more than anything else. While it lacked the tension of THE NARROW MARGIN, it made up for it with quality at every level--resulting in a marvelous and generally unrecognized little gem. Watch this film--it's dandy.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
BBC2 often show these sort of movies either in the daytime or in the
early hours. Armoured Car Robbery came on one afternoon so I set the
video and was pleased I did.
A gang decides to rob an armoured car and when doing so, this results in a policeman being killed and one of the robbers injured and is shot dead later by one of the other robbers after getting a little touchy. The remaining robbers go on the run and end up hiding in a hut somewhere in LA docks, after passing through an oil field. The police are closing in on them all the while and are caught or killed at the end.
The location photography in this movie is done well, especially the oil field sequence with the "nodding donkeys".
The cast includes Charles McGraw, B movie regular Adele Jergens (The Day the World Ended), Steve Brodie, Gene Evans and William Talman.
Watching Armoured Car Robbery is a good way to spend just over an hour one afternoon or evening.
Rating: 3 stars out of 5.
Having just watched Spike Lee's Inside Man recently, it occurred to me
that the caper/heist genre movie has gradually become so familiar that
even the twistiest of plots seems predictable and ordinary. With this
in mind I stepped back about 50 years to this entry in the genre that
is almost a documentary by way of comparison to recent films. Instead
of building to twists and revelations, this film takes a much
straighter line and plays up the noir aspects of the film to deliver a
solid b movie that is lacking in fireworks but not any less satisfying
Apparently this film caused a bit of a stir at the time of release as it was criticised for being too "instructional" in regards planning a job and also police procedure in the investigation. This is maybe pushing it a bit far but certainly it is played pretty straight throughout and by doing so seems to work well as just a tough crime story. The tough part is key because, although the basic story is solid, the film is sold on the atmosphere as painted by the script, the direction and the performances. The film is set in the grey world of noir where the criminals are hard but the cops seem to be driven by bitterness and revenge just as much as a desire to do the right thing. This gives the film a nice dark edge that fits the material well and although it lacks flair, the straight-shooting approach works well.
The direction is good and Fleischer is confident within the smoky confines of interview rooms, nightclubs and hideouts. The script is not a classic but it does provide some memorable lines and has a tough edge that the cast take to. Talman is suitably sharp and dark as the gang leader, convincing in his infatuation with Yvonne just as he is betraying his gang. McGraw is more obvious but no less enjoyable in the role of the bitter, driven detective after the gang. Jergens is a bit too, well, round to totally convincing as the scheming showgirl but she did well enough to carry her scenes. Support from Fowley, McGuire and others round out the b movie cast but their performances all suit the material and the genre.
Overall then this runs the risk of coming over a bit dull to those that are used to their "heist gone wrong" movies with more violence and more twists but this relatively by-the-numbers film still works well. The material is enjoyable and the solid script is well delivered with a tough edge by director and cast.
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