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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
During an appearance on The Dick Cavett Show, Walter Matthau recalled that he was making King Creole (1958) with Elvis Presley when approached about directing and starring in this low-budget production. See more »
The Itch for Scratch
Music by Leonard Barr
Lyrics by Ronald Bloomberg
Sung by Ted Stanford See more »
It is noteworthy that this was made in 1959, around the same time that "Breathless" and the French Nouvelle Vague was beginning. It looks like a new wave film, but instead of celebrating the freedom and independence of low budget, auteur film-making, it seems to be trying and failing to be a "B" movie or even a Monogram "C" movie.
It is much closer to bad early Roger Corman ("Swamp Women" or "She Gods of Shark Reef" than to great early Roger Corman ("Attack of the Crab Monster," or "Bucket of Blood") Matthau has some interesting cutting and camera angles, but he gets no performances out of his cast, including himself. The writing is bland and Ed Wood amateurish. The first bank robbery where Matthau pretends to be shooting a movie to lure the bank president inside his closed bank is ridiculous. The cops who stand guard outside the bank while this is going on would have to be mentally retarded or the most trusting souls in California to fall for the ruse.
Matthau kills about seven cops, and a couple of innocent people, yet the movie seems to want to create sympathy for him by making him a Korean/Invasion of Normandy army veteran. Matthau has a bloodhound face that immediately makes us want to sympathize with him. This is the secret of his success, perhaps. It is too bad that as a director he was unable to put it to use.
I would recommend this only for fans of Matthau who wish to see every film he was in. Otherwise, if you want a film where Matthau plays a gangster who falls in love and likes to gamble on horses, like this one, but unlike this movie is professionally done, try "Little Miss Marker." That film is delightful.
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