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.