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Gangster and cop killer Jack Martin is on the run from the law, and hides out in a small town. Low on funds, he engineers a clever bank robbery that yields him a big bundle. Now he has not only the cops and the FBI after him, but also the local crime boss, who's outraged that an outsider can pull off a heist like that in his territory and not cut him in on it. Written by
One of the more pleasing aspects of having a cable channel like TCM is the comforting knowledge that sooner or later so many wonderful quasi-obscure little film noir gems will eventually be broadcast and make their way into the home libraries of those who so ravenously covet them.
One such deliriously sublime example is GANGSTER STORY, a no-budget 1960 indie noir that starred and was directed by Walter Matthau. Produced in Los Angeles on virtually no money at all, it tells the simple but compelling story of criminal Jack Martin (Matthau) who, at the outset of the story has escaped his police captors and killed a cop in the process. His flight takes him to a quiet little town where he holes up while planning an outrageously weird bank job back in the big city. The heist nets him a bundle and now with the cops, the FBI and the outraged local crime kingpins (how dare this punk upstage them!) hot on his trail, the chase that will lead to Martin's ultimate destiny becomes hotter by the minute.
This is a tough one to recommend across the board, as there will no doubt be many who are put off by the obvious lack of resources devoted to the making of this picture. But connoisseurs of ragtag B crime noirs are likely to savor the abundance of eccentric touches that Matthau invests in this truly odd and surprisingly inventive thriller. Trivia freaks will enjoy knowing that Carol Grace, the actress who plays Matthau's love interest, became the real-life second Mrs. Matthau a couple of years later.
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