Category Archives: Heist films

Richard Burton and the face of a Villain

Villain_USHSRichard Burton has been on my mind ever since I watched him a couple of weeks ago in the strange 1971 British film, Villain.

Burton was a regular fixture on the TV screen in our house when I was young. Like a lot of women of her generation, my mother loved him ever since he played Mark Anthony opposite Elizabeth Taylor in the 1963 classic, Cleopatra (the film on which the two met for the first time).

Dad liked his war films, of which there were a few, including Where Eagles Dare (1968), Raid on Rommel (1971), The Wild Geese (1978) and The Longest Day (1962). Burton only had a very brief role in the later, as an RAF pilot shot down over Normandy. A US marine cut off from his outfit stumbles across him lying in the bushes next to a dead German soldier, and Burton gets to utter the immortal line: “He’s dead. I’m crippled. You’re lost. Do you suppose it’s always like that? I mean war.”

Only recently have I come to discover and appreciate some Burton’s other films. His turn as Alec Leamas in the incredibly bleak and noirish 1965 spy thriller, The Spy Who Came in From the Cold still stands as the best and most realistic screen depiction of the Cold War.… Read more

The Don Siegel Rule


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I had to give it a name, so I called it the Don Siegel Rule.

I was watching Charley Varrick recently, the 1973 heist film directed by Siegel, starring Walter Matthau as an ex-crop duster and stunt pilot turned bank who, along with his long suffering girlfriend, Nadine, and unreliable partner, robs a small bank in New Mexico. Unbeknownst to Varrick, the bank in question is actually a front for the mob. In response, the mob sends a hit man (played by Joe Don Baker) after him.

It’s a terrific little heist film. Tough in all the right places, just enough action and suspense to keep you interested, without the kind of over the top action gimmicks similar films exhibit these days. Matthau is terrific as the hangdog loner, Varrick.

Anyway, it got me thinking. There may be bad Siegel films out there, but I haven’t seen them.

Siegel was the king of the intelligent B movie (a title he shares with directors such as Walter Hill). His films have enormous energy and pace, but they also have an economy. Watching Siegel’s films, time and again he’s been able to get above obvious budget and script limitations to tell a gripping story.

The journeyman director cut his teeth making Westerns and noirs in the late forties and early fifties, and then pretty much excelled at whatever genre he tried.… Read more

The Silent Partner

the-silent-partner

Earlier this year I did a series of posts on my love of heist films, what my favourite ones are, and how they differ from caper films.

The number one rule of a solid heist film is the heist always, always goes wrong, whereas caper films put more emphasis on comedy and the criminals often get away with it.

What to make, then, of the 1978 Canadian film, The Silent Partner?

I’d heard about this film around the traps, never prioritised viewing it because of the star, Elliot Gould, an actor I’ve never much cared for, and what I perceived to be its caper feel.

Wow, was I wrong.

Gould plays Miles Cullen, a teller in a small bank in a large Toronto shopping mall. He’s a boring nobody who secretly lusts after another teller, Julie (played by Susannah York), and whose only passion is collecting tropical fish.

That all changes the day he learns the bank is about to be robbed after finding a discarded note on one the bank’s counters. He quickly deduces that the culprit is a guy in a Santa suit whose working the crowd outside the bank and whose ‘give to charity sign’ is done in the same hand writing as the discarded note.

But instead of telling his boss or going to the cops Miles devises a plan to keep most of the cash from his transactions, thus ensuring that when Santa robs the bank he’ll get far less money.… Read more

Blood Money and other Australian crime films you’ve probably never heard of

If you haven’t heard of the 1980 Australian film Bloody Money, don’t worry, you’d be in good company. Clocking in at just over 62 minutes, it’s an unpolished little gem of a heist film and almost completely unavailable.

John Flaus plays Pete Shields, an aging Sydney criminal who experiences an emotional epiphany after a diamond robbery he’s involved in goes violently wrong and his doctor informs him he’s got terminal cancer.

Shields returns to Melbourne, his hometown, where he has family, a little brother Brian (Aussie icon Bryan Brown), having trouble going straight, and Brian’s wife, Jeannie. There’s a lot of unfinished emotional business between them, including Shields’s affair with Jeannie years ago that may mean he is father of her and Brian’s daughter.

Pete also has unfinished criminal business with a gang run by Mister Curtis (Peter Stratford). To make sure his brother doesn’t fall back into their clutches, Pete takes Curtis’s gang apart man by man then kidnaps the crime boss’s daughter for a $50,000 ransom.

Blood Money has a definite Get Carter vibe, including the ending where Shields, having exchanged the daughter for the cash, is gunned in a remote quarry.

It’s not the greatest local crime film ever made, but Director John Ruane (who went on to do Death in Brunswick) gives it a grainy realism that draws the viewer in.… Read more

Violent Saturday


Over the weekend I managed to catch a film I’d been keen to see for a while, Richard Fleischer’s Violent Saturday. Made in 1955, it focuses on a bank robbery in small southern US town.

It’s not hard to see why it was so heavily criticised upon release. Apart from the violence there’s some pretty warts and all portrayals of the residents. The owner of the local copper mine, the town’s main business, is an alcoholic cuckold and the manager (Victor Mature) is ashamed because he never got to serve in WWII. The librarian’s a petty thief and the bank manager a peeping tom.

All this comes to a head when hoodlums (headed up by Stephen McNally and including a very young Lee Marvin) arrive in town to hit the local bank. They car jack Mature then take a local Amish family (Ernest Borgnine is the father) hostage so they can use their farm as a hide-out after the robbery.

As usual with Fleischer, a director who could walk and chew gum at the same time, it’s a good, solid effort. There’s gritty action and interesting, convincing characters.

Previously unavailable, Violent Saturday has been released by a new Melbourne outfit, Bounty Films. The DVD didn’t include any special features, just the movie.

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