Thursday, January 3, 2013

Caftan Woman's Choice: One for January on TCM



TCM is giving its audience a surfeit of heist films in January, with all of the thrills, action, plot twists and paranoia that go along with them.  The dandiest of them all is 1950s Armored Car Robbery directed by Richard Fleischer.  At this stage of Fleischer's varied career he was becoming the master of the tightly-paced, low-budgeted crime picture acclaimed as film-noir with Lawrence Tierney in 1948s Bodyguard and the 1949 titles The Clay Pigeon starring real-life couple Bill Williams and Barbara Hale, Follow Me Quietly featuring William Lundigan as an obsessed police lieutenant, and Lloyd Bridges in TrappedThe Narrow Margin would follow in 1952 and Fleischer would move on to more prestigious and better budgeted films within the studio system, however fans  are continually and gratefully discovering the delights of this period. 

Armored Car Robbery has the documentary feel of its Los Angeles location filming in the telling of a heist, the gang, the cops and fate - with a capital "F".

William Talman
(1915 - 1968)

William Talman puts together a gang to rob an armored car as it completes its rounds of venues for the day.  Well-known and acclaimed as District Attorney Hamilton Burger on TVs long-running Perry Mason, Talman is outstanding as one of the coldest villains in the history of film-noir.  The gang includes character actor favourites Douglas Fowley (Battleground, Charlie Chan on Broadway), Steve Brodie (Winchester '73, Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye) and Gene Evans (The Steel Helmet, Park Row).  All have their reasons for participating in the enterprise.  Fowley, in particular, wants the money for his girl, a stripper played by Adele Jergens (Side Street, The Dark Past).  She has a wandering eye and you won't win a prize for figuring out on whom that eye has landed.
  
Charles McGraw
(1914 - 1980)


As tough as this gang of robbers are, or think they are, they have crossed paths with Lt. Cordell played by Charles McGraw (The Narrow Margin, Slaughter on Tenth Avenue) and no one is a tenacious as he when on the case.  Newly-minted Detective Ryan played by Don McGuire assists with the voice of reason.  McGuire had a number of roles in films such as Pride of the Marines, Whiplash and Nora Prentiss.  He was also a press agent and writer who adapted the screenplay for Bad Day at Black Rock, created the TV series Hennessy, and was Oscar nominated for the story for Tootsie.

The story was adapted from a true-life event by producer/editor Robert Angus (The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet) with Robert Leeds.  The screenplay was fashioned by Earl Felton (The Narrow Margin, 20000 Leagues Under the Sea) and Canadian born Gerald Drayson Adams (The Duel at Silver Creek, The Big Steal).

The crisp cinematography of Armored Car Robbery is by Guy Roe whose work can be enjoyed in Railroaded! and Whispering City as well as many classic TV series including Zane Grey Theater, The Rifleman and Gang Busters.

Clocking in at 67 minutes, Richard Fleischer's Armored Car Robbery will leave you breathless in admiration for the director's sure hand and the cast's committed presence.

TCM is screening Armored Car Robbery on Tuesday, January 29th at 1:45 am.  


27 comments:

  1. I kept thinking the name Richard Fleischer sounded familiar, so I looked him up on IMDB and saw that he also directed lots of sci-fi/fantasy stuff like Soylent Green, 20,000 Leagues, Conan the Destroyer and Red Sonja - movies I grew up with in my childhood! Interesting to see that his career stretched back much further.

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  2. As the son of rival animator Max Fleischer, Richard was brought up to think ill of Walt Disney. When offered the job on "20000 Leagues Under the Sea" he was surprised to receive his Dad's blessing and to find Walt a pleasant boss. A great movie from my childhood as well.

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  3. Wow. Must catch this one. Hamilton Burger and the guy with the gravely voice. So excited.

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  4. You've hit on the best way to remember the movie. The straight-forward title is almost too straight-forward.

    I can't wait to show it to my daughter. She's a major Talman/Burger fan who cannot resist the lure of the "Perry Mason" theme.

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  5. This is one of the best - tightly edited and fast-paced, not an ounce of fat on it. And I love McGraw in anything!

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  6. It gets my highest praise when I call it "a dandy". It's what my late father used to say about a movie he really enjoyed and at some point I realized he said it most often about film-noir.

    I'm a little surprised that TCM isn't giving it the prime time treatment, but at least it's on the schedule. Who am I to gripe?

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  7. I'll try to catch this on TCM. I've never heard of it! Frankly, I'm not a big fan of heist movies, but you make this one sound good, so I'll give it a try!

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  8. At just over an hour, Becky, you have everything to gain and nothing to lose. Trust me.

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  9. CW,
    I've never heard of Armored Car Robbery which is a shame. We can use gangster films in our lives. (Sure Becky has seen it!)

    Interesting info on McGuire. Love your added information on these films and the trivia.

    Wishing you the best in 2013. I'm looking forward to what you have in store for us here at your wonderfully, entertaining blog.
    Page

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  10. CW,
    I've never heard of Armored Car Robbery which is a shame. We can use gangster films in our lives. (Sure Becky has seen it!)

    Interesting info on McGuire. Love your added information on these films and the trivia.

    Wishing you the best in 2013. I'm looking forward to what you have in store for us here at your wonderfully, entertaining blog.
    Page

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  11. Thank you, Page. It's been a busy couple of months and I fear I've fallen behind on my blogging. Hope to be more of a go-getter in 2013.

    You have got to watch "Armored Car Robbery". You'll never look at Hamilton Burger the same way (that is, if you look at him in any particular way right now) again!

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  12. A great choice for the month, CW! It's very tight and fast-paced, plus an outstanding cast. I love Charles McGraw - if only he'd had a break-out performance to launch him beyond B-movies - and he's the essence of the determined gritty cop here. Wm. Talman and Adele Jergens are delectably nasty and deceitful. Making the cast irresistible for me is Steve Brodie, another favorite.

    "Armored Car Robbery" was one of the best of the movies included on Warner's 2010 "Film Noir Vol. 5" along with Anthony Mann's "Desperate" (Steve Brodie, Raymond Burr). The two movies make for a great double bill for many reasons, including the chance to see Talman and Burr in their pre-"Perry Mason" days in serious bad guy roles.

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  13. I've never seen this film--but I love heist pictures, the neo-documentary style of the 1950s, and Hamilton Burger. Thanks for a great recommendation!

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  14. Lady Eve, it's funny how easily audiences accepted Raymond Burr as "Perry" considering all the rotters he gleefully brought to life in his movie career.

    It's not often you run across an avowed Steve Brodie fan these days. You're class.

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  15. Rick, this is a definitely a "do not miss" for you.

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  16. I fell in love with this one when I saw it just a few weeks ago and am so glad you've highlighted it. On top of everything else it has some terrific L.A. locations at places like Wrigley Field. Great stuff!

    Best wishes,
    Laura

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  17. Thanks for excellent review of one of my favorites.
    Amazing how much plot can be packed into 60 minutes.
    Terrific cast led by Charles McGraw as the cop chasing William Talman who thinks he has all the bases covered for his heist, only to find it unravelling right from the start.
    Superb support from Douglas Fowley and Steve Brodie and I liked Don McGuire as the easy going side kick of McGraw.
    Thanks too for info on how well Don did later on in his career.
    Catch Talman in The Hitch Hiker.

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  18. Laura, sometimes I think we were separated at birth!

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  19. Vienna, I agree that one of the most impressive things about the movie is its length. So much all tidily presented in just over an hour. Filmmakers of today seem to have the idea that time = quality and that is so not true.

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  20. Ohe of the few Richard Fleischer films I've not seen. BTW Rich, he also directed the American segments of Tora Tora Tora

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  21. Maybe we should make 2013 the year of Fleischer and fill in the missing gaps.

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  22. I've had this one in the "to watch" pile for several months, and when I saw you wrote about it, I thought it was about time I took the plunge.

    A splendid movie and I know what you mean when you say its a "dandy" movie. I know what you mean. I often say "nifty" to describe pretty much the same thing.

    As much as I loved strong dramatic film music, I'm fascinated by these films that were made in the late 1940s and early 1950s with minimal or no dramatic scoring. It's almost as if some creatives at the studios were rebelling against Hollywood gloss. This film is a fine example, along with "The Narrow Margin", "The Tall Target", "The Asphalt Jungle", etc.

    Anyway, a fine film which I highly recommend. I found your background on the players most interesting.

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  23. Wouldn't it be fun if we were somehow able to watch movies together one day? There's so much we both enjoy.

    I plan to fill in my Fleischer viewing this year by watching 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA!

    Best wishes,
    Laura

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  24. Kevin, I really get a feel of the hands-on creative process watching these "nifty" movies. Glad I helped move "Armored Car Robbery" into the watched pile.

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  25. Caftan Woman, as a fan of noir, heist films, and PERRY MASON, I'm gonna make it a point to keep an eye out for ARMORED CAR ROBBERY. With that cast (just saw Adele Jergens in THE CORPSE CAME C.O.D. recently), it sounds like 67 minutes well-spent! Swell review, my friend!

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  26. Thanks so much, Dorian. I hope folks remembered to set their recorders this week.

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