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|Index||15 reviews in total|
19 out of 19 people found the following review useful:
Groovy, atmospheric melodrama, 12 November 2005
Author: moonspinner55 from las vegas, nv
Ordinary crime plot, written by Zekial Marko from his novel "Scratch a Thief", is given vivid, hyperkinetic Ralph Nelson direction, beginning in a jazz club with a drum solo that is crazy-cool. Marko and Nelson really lay on the mid-'60s jive, but Nelson's quasi-European handling and groovy cinematic tricks make the film visually arresting. Story concerns ex-thief in San Francisco, trying to lead a clean life with his wife and little girl, fingered for the murder of a Chinese storekeeper by the police sergeant who hates him; worse, his shady older brother is in town wanting his help in pulling off a job. Interesting characters (one of the villains is a fey platinum-blonde punker years before his time) and performances, with Ann-Margret doing some of her best dramatic work as Alain Delon's wife. The talky lulls are given a boost by Marko's slangy, hip dialogue and by Nelson's fervent rhythm, but some may see all this as just ridiculous. It's certainly amusing, and the San Francisco locales are a big plus. *** from ****
14 out of 15 people found the following review useful:
often given a bad rap; actually pretty cool, 30 August 2003
Author: jt1999 from Santa Monica
The beginning of this picture, from the jazzy opening credits and into the
reel or so, is rather engaging. At its best, it is stylish in that French
Meets American Beatnik kind of way, frequent in popular culture of the time.
dialogue is peppered with hepcat slang and frank references to narcotics
and so-called "deviant" sexuality. This is daring stuff for a 1965 release from MGM. Beautiful widescreen black-and-white photography from Robert Burks,
who had by then done several Hitchcock films. The steady hand of director
Ralph Nelson keeps the picture moving, often punctuated by moments of
unexpected brutality. PC this is not! The story itself is popcorn stuff, perhaps best not explored too deeply, but a great cast helps to enliven the material. By
today's standards, the character played by Ann-Margret would never be
depicted in such a fashion as seen here. (At one point, she apologizes after
being slapped around.) But hey, she's under the seductive spell of Alain Delon, a Frenchman playing an Italian. No, it's not "The Asphalt Jungle". Neither is it a total waste of time, as it's often described as being. It's a good example of a mid- '60s studio potboiler, capably and professionally (and sometimes artfully)
handled by all parties concerned. If your bag lies elsewhere, go on and fetch it, then. I'm rewinding the tape so I'll be ready to watch "Once a Thief" again soon.
6 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Look Again, 31 January 2008
Author: noodlejet from United States
Any semi-serious movie buff or even casual viewer should be able to see
that this film practically screams "Coen Brothers," 30 years before
their time. The creepy blond character in "Fargo" is a dead ringer for
the creepy blond bad guy in "Once a Thief," right down to the
hairstyle. And the general ambiance of many scenes, as well as the
ironic plot twists near the end, indicate that this movie was a big
influence on the Coen bros, and to some extent, "where they went to
It should also be noted that though this is film noir, it's also "hip" film noir, a rare breed that includes Larry Moyer's "The Moving Finger" and precious few others of the time. In fact, both these movies were too hip for their time.
10 out of 14 people found the following review useful:
A once was thief trying to go clean and along with loving wife and daughter they are all caught up in a circle of bad., 25 January 2003
Author: Tammy-9 from California
The premiss of the movie was very intense with the music. The love that this man had for his wife and little girl was honest and heart taking. The acting was great by all. The little girl's acting was very powerful. Alain Delon and Ann-Margret are great!!! Truly a timeless movie. Very emotionally impacting. Definetly one of the great great old movies. Wish there were more.
6 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
Good, Well Made Noir, 11 June 2005
Author: johnboy1 from Texas
I suppose I like the cast better than the film, itself. Heflin,
Palance, Ann-Margret, Chandler, and Delon are all watchable.
This may very well be Chandler's finest performance (and he was always good at playing bad guys).
The story is one we've all seen before, many times, yet the cast makes it worth watching. Ann-Margret might not have been as good as she could have been, but she's not really that bad.
Even the scenes involving the little girl work well, and the chemistry between she and Delon is exceptional.
The surprise ending is tense and exciting. Too bad there's no DVD of this film. I'd buy it.
4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
See it's that easy! I'm no longer there I no longer exist!, 14 December 2006
Author: sol from Brooklyn NY USA
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
**SOME SPOILERS** Late, for 1965 that is, 1940's like film noir crime
drama that has an ex-convict who spent 18 months in San Quentin for
armed robbery trying to go straight. With his gangster brother having
other ideas for him that could very well send him either to the San
Quintin death chamber or the San Francisco City morgue.
Eddie Pedak, Alan Delon, has been saving money from his job at a meat processing plant on the docks to buy himself a fishing boat and be independent for the first time in his life. Having both a beautiful wife Kristine, Ann-Margaret, and cute six-year-old daughter Kathy, Tammy Locke, things have never looked better for Eddie since he was released from prison back in 1956 when he was 21. Thats until his older brother Walter, Jack Palance, came back into Eddie's life.
It's very obvious right from the start that Eddie had been set up by Walter and his gang in a robbery/murder in San Francisco's Chinatown. Were totally kept in the dark to who committed the crime and then almost within minutes of the murder Eddie shows up driving the very same car, a Ford Model-T, and wearing the same sheepskin jacket that the faceless killer wore.
SFPD police inspector Vito, Van Heflin, on the scene of the killing immediately suspects that Eddie Pedak was the murderer since he fit the murderer profile and description. It also comes out that Eddie shot Vito some time ago during a robbery, where he was eventually found innocent by a jury, that lodged a .38 slug in his gut This severally effected his digestive system, making it virtually impossible for Vito to eat his favorite Italian and Mexican food. Inspt. Vito Picking up Eddie for questioning at his place of employment causes Eddie to eventually loses his job. This forced Eddie to have his gorgeous and well-stacked wife Kristine, the 36-23-36 Ann-Margaret, work at the Big Al Night-Club as a scantily clad cocktail waitress. It's there where Kristine ends up making more money in one night then Eddie made all week by him hauling and stacking hunks of meat at the dockside factory.
Feeling less then a man doing housework where at the same time Kristine was bringing home the beacon Eddie goes to Big Al's just to see what his wife was doing and that did it for him. Seeing customers groping and ogling at the beautiful Kristine and stuffing bills, some as much as $20.00, into her waitress outfit had Eddie throw a fit and drag the very shocked and embarrassed Kristine out of the place. Eddie is now determined more then ever to work for his brother Walter. Eddie together with his two fellow thugs Sargatanas & Shoswstein, John David Chandler & Ton Musante, planned the knocking off of his former employer of a cool one million dollars worth of platinum locked up in the company safe.
The well planned robbery turns out to be a smashing success but the greed among the robbers, in double-crossing each other, in the end does them all in. With the crazed Sargatanas blasting away funeral director co-conspirator and explosive expert John Ling, Yuki Shimoda, as soon as they were about to make their getaway.
Walter doing some double-crossing of his own takes off, together with his kid-brother Eddie, with the valuable platinum bars hiding them in a tractor-trailer together with the getaway car. Finding Walter at the prearranged hideout that he's to meet Eddie Sargatanas blows him away, off screen. To make sure that Eddie and his wife and little girl don't check out of town, with the platinum bars,Sargatanas kidnap's little Kathy holding her hostage until Eddie comes clean by telling him and his fellow hood Shoewstein, after having his front teeth kicked out by Eddie earlier in the movie, where the loot is hidden.
Knowing that the crazed and double-crossing Sargatanas can't be trusted in returning Kathy back safe and sound Eddie reluctantly goes to Inspt. Vito's house and makes a deal with him to captured both Sargatanas and Shoewstein at the docks. It's there where the final totally unexpected and explosive scene in the film "Once a Thief" takes place.
6 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
Quite a standard movie and story but brought well to the screen by cast & crew., 10 July 2006
Author: Boba_Fett1138 from Groningen, The Netherlands
Lets face it. The 'film-noir' period was already over its peak and as
good as death already in 1965, when this movie was released. This movie
is a late attempt to revive the film-noir genre, with some big names
involved. They partly succeeded. The movie works quite well as a
crime/thriller movie but it lacks the certain style, characters and
subtle style of film-making to consider this movie a good attempt at
the film-noir genre.
All of the classic ingredients are present here but everything doesn't always connect very well. Some of the story lines are underdeveloped and it often leaves more questions than answers. I still don't fully understand what the point was of the robbery/killing in the beginning of the movie. Some of the events in the movie feel silly but it luckily doesn't make the movie any less pleasant to watch. So even though everything in the movie is far from flawless it still is a good enough crime/thriller to watch.
The main plot line isn't anything too terribly exciting but it's told in a good way. Director Ralph Nelson brought the standard and thin story well to the screen and even manages to make the movie look exciting, thrilling and surprising.
The musical score by Lalo Schifrin is quite odd but its suits the movie very well and therefor I liked it.
The characters and cast are good and interesting. OK so Alain Delon might not be the best leading man but the supporting cast certainly compensates for this. Ann-Margret shows she is a great actress although she mainly only does some screaming and crying in this movie. It gets a bit too much after a while. Van Heflin and Jack Palance were also great and John Davis Chandler beautifully plays a ruthless villainous looking villain. He absolutely stole the show in most of the sequences he was present in.
A good enough crime/thriller that deserves to be seen.
5 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
ONCE A THIEF (Ralph Nelson, 1965) **1/2, 5 August 2007
Author: MARIO GAUCI (firstname.lastname@example.org) from Naxxar, Malta
In the wake of having watched Alain Delon in Joseph Losey's THE
ASSASSINATION OF TROTSKY (1972), I decided to check out three other
vehicles of his I had taped off TV over the last few months beginning
with this one, which emerges to be just as pretentious as Losey's film!
Best described as a beatnik noir, we've seen this film's story told a
million times before that of a criminal who can't escape his past,
dogged as much by old associates as by an obsessive police nemesis.
Consequently, director Nelson and cinematographer Robert Burks
(best-known for his longtime collaboration with Alfred Hitchcock)
handle the generally clichéd material for more than it's worth even
if my viewing was somewhat compromised by the film being
Delon and Ann-Margret make for a handsome couple - although she occasionally tries too hard and her histrionics seem more at home in a Tennessee Williams melodrama; Van Heflin is appropriately world-weary as the aging cop, Jack Palance is typically intense as a crime boss and Delon's elder brother. The rest of Palance's gang is made up of the odd-looking and memorably creepy John Davis Chandler and Tony Musante while Jeff Corey appears as Heflin's irate superior. The film's screenwriter Zekial Marko (adapting his own novel) is featured in an unintentionally hilarious supporting role as a druggie who shares a cell with Delon we follow his case intermittently throughout (for no very good reason other than to justify the similarly hapless Delon's pursuit of crime) via newspaper clippings, denoting Marko's conviction to the gas chamber and eventually his suicide! The film is aided by a jazzy score courtesy of Lalo Schifrin, who seemed to specialize in crime/police dramas. The elaborate heist half-way through is an expected highlight, which then leads to a predictably downbeat and body-strewn climax.
1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
The streets of San Francisco, 8 September 2010
Author: jotix100 from New York
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Once a Thief", directed by Ralph Nelson, came as a surprise when it
showed on cable. Not having seen the film, we were interested, first of
all, by the excellent cast, and having seen Mr. Nelson's "The Welby
Conspiracy" not too long ago, we made the right decision, as it turned
out. Based on Zekial Marko's novel "Scratch a Thief", the plot is not
overly unique. After all, haven't we seen variations on the same theme
done before? What makes it worth watching by serious fans is the work
Mr. Nelson in the picture.
The style, for one thing, kept reminding this viewer of a lot of the films by the New Wave directors from France of the same era. The movie has a feeling of having been done following the European way of presenting a story in ways that the action is enhanced by the atmosphere that is created. This was the first time the great Lalo Schifrin composed the score for a Hollywood film, even though he had worked in Argentina and France and on American television. His jazzy score serves the film well.
Alain Delon, seen as Eddie Pedak, the former con that has kept away from trouble, was at good moment of his long career. His American film career did nothing for him, artistically, and yet, he gave a good performance here. His pairing with beautiful Ann-Margret paid off in that both had a chemistry that is visible. Ann-Margret was doing a stretch in the film because she had been associated with lighter fare up to this dramatic breakthrough. Van Heflin plays the SFPD detective that judges circumstances lightly and associates Eddie to the crime which he suspects Eddie is involved.
The supporting cast is interesting. Jack Palance appears as Eddie's brother Walter, the schemer with a bold plan that will make him, and his gang, rich. John Davis Chandler is perfectly menacing as the menacing Sargatanas. Tony Musante has a small role as Shoenstein, another man on Walter's crew. Jeff Corey shows up as the partner of inspector Vido.
Even though it is an uneven film, "Once a Thief" has a lot of innovative elements thanks to Ralph Nelson's direction.
5 out of 10 people found the following review useful:
Some Nuggets Among the Stones, 19 August 2002
Author: gvb0907 from Falls Church, Virginia
The plot is threadbare, the principals don't really look the part, the pace
is much too slow, but this film still has some points of
First, the location work. Plenty of San Francisco footage, though much of it at night (this is film noir, after all). The city looks different now, but many of the setups are in areas that haven't changed too much.
Then there's Anne-Margret, still in her sex-kitten stage but trying hard to break out of it. She's really not up to the mommy part, though she gives it a good try. Her character is about the only sympathetic one in the film, save . . .
Van Heflin's. I've always liked him. He's pretty good as the cop who hounds Delon, though he won't pass for Italian any day of the week, or will Delon, for that matter. It's interesting to contrast this detective with Steve McQueen's Frank Bullit or Clint Eastwood's Harry Callahan. They're all SFPD and only a few years separate their stories, but Heflin's Mike Vido is from another world. Wait until you see who he lives with.
And then there's John David Chandler's homicidal homosexual-child molester, a really nasty characterization you won't encounter today and not often then. Oh yes, he's also a sadist.
Finally, there's Jack Palance's equal opportunity crew: two Italians (though I think their surname is Croatian), a Jew, a Greek, and a Chinese undertaker. Somehow they pull off the heist, though just barely.
Recommended if you enjoy hard-core noir, Anne-Margret, or Heflin, otherwise steer clear.
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