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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
CRASHOUT might come as a surprise to crime film fans or noir
enthusiasts who pick it up, expecting a routine mid-50s B movie. For
one thing, it's feature-length (89 minutes), and doesn't skimp much on
plot and character development. Director Lewis R. Foster was probably
pretty adept at action/adventure pictures, judging by titles in his
IMDb filmography. CRASHOUT was probably just another assignment to him,
but the film shows he was no hack. It's a foregone conclusion that a
Hollywood movie won't let criminals get away unpunished, but a superior
example like this makes the fate of its players more meaningful with
good actors and intelligent writing. Foster keeps things moving nicely,
once past the fairly talky first scene in the cave. The film never lags
once after that, because there is plenty of action, and characters are
given enough depth to differentiate them and keep them interesting.
Arthur Kennedy appears to be the main protagonist here. His Joe Quinn represents the typical redeemed-too-late criminal (who had been jailed for robbery). The actor invests Quinn with plenty of believability, especially in his interactions with Beverly Michaels (an odd, rather glamorous choice for a farm resident, but she is effective). William Bendix plays another of his dumb thugs to perfection, this time never letting up and with no redemption in sight. In Luther Adler's Mendoza we see more evidence of this great actor's talent, making a good deal out of what could have been a stereotyped cypher. Gene Evans, another prolific actor, is allowed to show two sides to his Monk Collins, intimidating one moment, and teaching card tricks to a hostage child the next. Also interesting is Marshall Thompson--a performer who may have never really gotten his due--as the 'nice young man gone wrong'. Thompson really stands out in the very good sequence involving the young woman he meets on the train. Gloria (I MARRIED A MONSTER FROM OUTER SPACE) Talbot is nicely cast in this sequence. Last, and far from least, is William Talman (THE HITCH-HIKER, ARMORED CAR ROBBERY), as Remsen, a lapsed reverend, who obsessively plays the same record over and over, as though it were a final vestige of goodness in his life.
In smaller roles we get a nice, but brief, dose of inimitable Percy Helton, playing a country doctor called out in the middle of the night, and who pays a hefty price for his professionalism. Also of note, Adam Williams (memorable as Larry Gordon in THE BIG HEAT two years earlier) in the role of Michaels's heroic date. And there's Morris Ankrum, as the head guard in the crashout scene.
Another interesting aspect of this film is the question of its place in the so-called 'Noir Canon'. Is this a film noir? In the strictest terms, probably not (although the designation is more subjective than many want to admit.) It has enough of the typical elements for some to see it as noir. But its 'existential' qualities may be disputable. This usually refers to a sense of isolation experienced by, typically, a single protagonist: he or she feels trapped in an uncaring universe, forced to proceed alone, resorting perhaps to uncharacteristic methods for survival. The escaped convicts in CRASHOUT don't really fit this profile. They are already immersed in crime. However, there is a strong sense in this film of over-arching fatalism: we all know, the escapees and the viewer, that they are trapped by their actions, that there will be no true escape. So at this level, the film can be seen as belonging to the 'noir universe'. Whatever category it fits into, CRASHOUT is a riveting corker of a movie not to be missed.
What an overlooked gem! What a find! This convicts-on-the-run thriller is outstanding. Top-drawer performances led by William Bendix and Arthur Kennedy leave their dirty thumb prints all over this film. Explicitly violent for its time, film noir doesn't get much darker than this. "Crashout" is on the same level as "Kiss Me Deadly", "The Asphalt Jungle" and "The Killing". This masterful story is an absolute must-see for any crime-drama and/or film noir buff. A guaranteed wild ride.
Crashout is an excellent film noir. The story starts after the crashout
from prison of 6 convicts. It focuses solely on the aftermath. Each
character is developed carefully, as is the story itself, which unfolds
logically and tragically as befits noir.
In these movies of old, we often find assembled amazingly good casts. In this case, there is William Bendix playing a coldly calculating and manipulative con. William Talman plays a killer with a few religious screws loose. Marshall Thompson is a younger con yearning to be free. Luther Adler is a ladies man anxious to take what he wants. Arthur Kennedy is an embittered thief out for money, and Gene Evans is a hot-tempered oaf. At first they hide out in a secret cave known to Bendix.
These six would go their separate ways except that a wounded Bendix ropes them into helping him in return for a share of big loot that he has stashed. But first they must overcome obstacles: food, clothing, a car, and avoiding any roadblocks.
Eventually, Beverly Michaels and her family are involved and a romantic attachment between her and Kennedy develops. Gloria Talbot has a role in one sequence playing a naive girl on her sad way back home after failing to make it as a singer in the big city.
The climax takes place on a snowy mountain top where the money is buried.
The acting is top notch from all hands. Kennedy and Bendix are special standouts. This is by no means an average movie or noir. This once was out on VHS tape. I wonder why it hasn't been remastered and made it to DVD. It's one of those core film noir classics.
Crashout is directed by Lewis R. Foster, who also co-adapts the
screenplay with Hal E. Chester. It stars William Bendix, Arthur
Kennedy, Luther Adler, William Talman, Gene Evans and Christopher
Olsen. Music is by Leith Stevens and cinematography by Russell Metty.
Six convicts crashout of prison and embark on a life and death struggle to reach safety
As tough as hobnail boots, Crashout is right there in the upper echelons of convict based film noir. There's not exactly anything new here on formula terms, the cons are angry macho men, each one has their own hang ups, and each one has their respective flaws. Be it religious maniac, fantasist, psychopath or the one who doesn't belong in this company, it's a roll call of familiar convict types. Yet the performances are so strong, the tension so tight, all worries about familiarity breeding contempt disappears the moment the men hide out in a disused mine. For here we learn about their psychological make-ups, and quickly buy into the fractured dynamic that we know is going to result in a machismo fuelled implosion.
The warden said dead or alive and he didn't say which.
Narrative strength comes by way of the fact the leader of the group, Van Morgan Duff (Bendix), is very injured and needs medical help. An out and out cold blooded brute, Duff wisely strikes a deal to split a pot load of hidden loot with the group, thus ensuring he gets to stay alive and in charge! The men then traverse the lands and encounter civilians, which in turn throws up some potent and tense filled scenarios. Murder and violence does follow, the film pretty brutal for the time, while the question of if anyone survives till the end looms large throughout.
You can take the con out of the jail, but you can't take the jail out of the con.
Lewis and Metty do a fine job of cloaking the picture with rugged toughness. Often the camera is up close and personal to reveal the grime, blood or sweat that oozes from the men. Scenes of the guys breaking bottles to use as weapons, a hand caked with hot candle wax, or Duff laid down in the dirt with ants crawling over him, it's all relevant to making these cons as tough as they come. We are not meant to like them, to root for them, they are outcasts of society and we know it. Visually it scores best when in the claustrophobic confines of the cave, and with an extended night sequence at Dexter rail station that's bathed in shadows and murky lights.
Pulsing with fatalism and dripping with dread, Crashout is highly recommended to those after a tough cons on the lam film noir. 8.5/10
A curiously compelling little movie, Crashout is a throwback to the tough prison-escape movies of the 30's. Fortunately, the producers had the good sense to hire an expert cast of B-movie veterans to enliven an otherwise shopworn plot. Writer-producer Hal Chester and director- writer Lewis Foster provide each convict with a distinct personality that holds viewer interest as tensions mount, while the audience anticipates how each character will be brought to justice. Standouts in the cast are the always subtle Arthur Kennedy, an engagingly ambivalent Marshall Thompson, and William Tallman doing his scary psycho bit, this time as a knife-throwing religious fanatic. Then there's that raspy little gnome Percy Helton, lending his unique brand of character color. And in a poignant bit part, cult favorite Gloria Talbott as the prospect of a normal life for the ill-fated Thompson. The scenes in the dingy roadhouse are well done, along with an appropriately ironical ending. Though you've seen it all before, there are many nice touches that lift this otherwise generous slice of thick-ear beyond the merely routine.
Like Canon City seven years earlier or Big House, U.S.A. of the same year,
Crashout follows half a dozen convicts along their futile path to freedom.
The drama centers only incidentally on their pursuit by police but explores
the tensions that erupt among them and their hostile reaction to the world
beyond the machine-gun turrets and barbed-wire fences. It's fast, brutal
and far from subtle, but its cast is above-average, and the movie even slows
down now and again for a poignant little vignette.
Self-appointed leader of the pack is William Bendix, wounded during the (pre-credits) prison break but brooking no dissent nonetheless. Strangest among them is William Talman (who also appeared in Big House, U.S.A. but of course lost countless cases to Perry Mason on TV, as District Attorney Hamilton Burger); he's a knife-throwing religious nut. Luther Adler as a Latin Lothario, Marshall Thompson as a sentimental kid in this thing over his head, and Gene Evans round out the roster of escapees except for Arthur Kennedy, who survives with something like a conscience stirring within him.
Helping to stir that conscience is farm gal Beverly Michaels, who arrives much too late in the story. Michaels, in her handful of roles (she starred in Russell Rouse's Wicked Woman), throws off a cool nonchalance that's all her own; with her low, distinctive way of talking, she suggests Sally Kellerman a decade or so later. In the ironic style that was coming into fashion, Crashout's ending leaves us hanging, at least a bit; still, it's competent enough to stand comparison with other installments of the jailbirds-on-the-lam sub-genre.
Crashout gets to the point quickly. A story of desperate escapees
making their way out of the abyss. William Bendix gives a "close to the
bone" portrayal of a desperate man who escapes prison with a motley
Nothing in this story comes easy. The six escapees work their way through several states by the skin of their teeth. On the other side is a split of a big pay day, but that pay day is way away buried in some of the most inhospitable territory imaginable. The common denominator is the promise of a huge buried payout. That's the story of Crashout. It's no easy road to glory for the cons, in the ensuing journey they cross paths with some unwitting characters. A journey of attrition whereby along the way not only does a possible love story evolve, but a the deaths of all but two remaining cons. The path to the big pay day is anything but a simple story. This is where Crashout rises above it's "B Movie" roots. Bendix give his usual colorful performance, but this time as a star front and center. The story suits his skills well.
The end is a heartless reckoning. A sort of good trumps bad, but there is an opening. The character of "Joe" played by the great Arthur Kennedy may or may not be the last man standing. Does he have the buried fortune? Probably not, but if he survives he may actually have gained much more than the 180 grand. This is a really tasty slice of film noir. It grabs the viewer early on and doesn't let go. Your're in for the ride. It's especially gritty and dark for the day in which it was filmed. It has a buried heart which all humanity can connect to. Basically hopeless, Crashout still has something that one can grab on to and in that it keeps the viewer invested. Great "B-Movie" film noir and as such recommended viewing for those to whom this stuff speaks.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A group of escaped convicts hide out in a wet cave waiting for the
search for them to slow down. The ailing leader of the escape (William
Bendix) is on the verge of death, and the poor doctor (Percy Helton)
who is called to help them at gunpoint will find that he won't be
allowed to tell what he knows. A few of the escapees seem to have a
major love of carnage, and Bendix has a sadistic streak that won't even
allow one of the younger members of the party (Marshall Thompson) go
off with a young girl (Gloria Talbott) he meets on a train. When they
hide out in the farmhouse of Beverly Michaels (a tough "B" girl giving
her most versatile performance here), the compassion of one of them
(the brilliant Arthur Kennedy) is revealed. Michaels plays a farm-bread
girl who obviously tried the big city, became a victim to it, and
returned home older, wiser, and sadder. Christopher Olsen is good as
her illegitimate son who doesn't understand what's going on but shows
deep courage anyway.
This is one of those enjoyable yet far-fetched stories of crime that wasn't quite film noir but played like it on the surface. The characters are fascinating, if somewhat one-dimensional to watch, and William Bendix chews up the scenery as if it was steak. Acting honors go to Kennedy who makes his criminal character quite likable in spite of his past. Luther Adler, William Talman and Gene Evans also deliver exciting performances. The film is fast-moving, tightly edited, and filled with some shocking moments, one of them involving a man on fire. The ending is filled with irony and makes up for the film's over-all clichés.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
***SPOILERS*** Overlooked prison escape drama with six convicts , out
of some 50, escaping in a major break-out of a Southwestern prison and
little by little doing the job, by killing or having themselves killed,
that the pressuring police and state troopers have in store for them.
Lead by the brutal Van Duff, William Bendix, who was seriously injured
during the escape the six wanted men plan to make their way to the snow
capped Rocky Mountians where he had previously stashed some $180,000.00
of stolen loot. With so much money on the line the six escaped convicts
end up murdering kidnapping and assaulting a number of innocent people
on their way to find the $180,000.00 pot of gold at the end of the
Murdering and kidnapping their way to the stashed money all but one of the escaped convicts bank embezzler Joe Quinn, Arthur Kennedy, survived to keep it only to end up being caught by the state troopers and put back behind bars before he could spend and enjoy it. The movie showed just what greed can do to those infected by it which caused the six escaped convict to self destruct before the film was finally over. And their flight to money and freedom turned out to be a very brief one for them. And far less satisfying then what they were facing behind prison bars.
Check out a very young innocent and sexy Gloria Talbot as the girl on the train. Gloria struck up a friendly conversation with escaped convict Billy Lang, Marshall Thompson, who fell in love with her and was going to quit running from the law. Billy ended up murdered by fellow escapee religious fanatic Swanee Remmsen, William Tallman, with a knife in his back. Swanee a convicted murderer despite in his keeping with the biblical ten commands didn't quite observe the one that said "Thou Shall not Kill".
This independent film production is one of the grimmest motion pictures
you'll ever see. I'm not surprised that in 1955 no major studio would
have made Crashout, especially without no real rooting interest in any
Six convicts are all that remain unapprehended after a giant Crashout of a prison break. The six and they're all different in their own ways are William Bendix, Arthur Kennedy, Gene Evans, Luther Adler, William Talman, and Marshall Thompson. The film is their story and what happens to each of them fleeing the law.
Bendix is wounded, but the rest have reason to keep him alive because he knows where $180,000.00 in buried loot is from his last job. They even get him a doctor and later kill Dr. Percy Helton.
Some other people get in their way and one by one they're killed by the law or by each other. Bendix the toughest and meanest of the bunch is the most memorable, followed by Arthur Kennedy who was not a lifer like the others but just wanted a taste of freedom and William Talman who is a religious fanatic. Not exactly the crowd I'd choose to hang with, but these guys have drawn each other in life's game of chance.
Bendix was the box office draw here. In films he was an excellent character player, but on radio and television he was a star and was still doing and starring in The Life Of Riley on television when Crashout was made. He's also one of my favorites and those of you discovering William Bendix for the first time see this and then see an episode of The Life Of Riley. You can't get more apart than lovable, bumbling Chester Riley and the escaped convict in Crashout. You'll barely believe it's the same actor.
Crashout is an unforgettable noir film of the Fifties, don't miss it if it is broadcast.
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