Category Archives: Stanley Baker

The heist always goes wrong, part 3: 10 of the best heist films you’ve never seen

payroll-1961As readers of this site know, I love a good heist film, the ingenuity of their plots and the variations they come in, whether it be the all star team assembled for the job of a life time or a group of desperate men and women trying for one last big score.

Everyone can name their favourite heist films and, for the most part, it is usually the big name titles such as The Asphalt Jungle (1950), The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1973) and the French classic, Rififi (1955). Indeed, I listed these and many other well know heist movies in previous posts on this site, ‘The heist always goes wrong, part 1: ten of the best heist movies ever made’ and ‘The heist always goes wrong, part 2: reader picks and other favourite heist movies’.

But what about the lessor known heist films that are great but which nobody knows about?

To celebrate the release of my second crime novel, Gunshine State, I have compiled the following list of the 10 best heist films you’ve never seen.

operation-amsterdam-poster

Operation Amsterdam (1959)

Operation Amsterdam functions as both a war and a heist film. Peter Finch plays Jan Smit, a British intelligence officer ordered to infiltrate the city of Amsterdam, which is on the verge of being overrun by invading German forces, and prevent the city’s diamond reserves from falling into Nazi hands.… Read more

The 10 essential films of Stanley Baker

Stanley Baker in Val Guest's 1960 thriller Hell Is a City.Welsh born actor Stanley Baker didn’t live to see his 50th birthday, but he left an impressive body of work. Like his friend Richard Burton, he escaped life as a coalminer for acting after a chance sighting in a school play by the casting director of Ealing Studios led to Baker’s first role in the 1943 war drama, Undercover. His rugged physique and hard grace meant he was most often cast as the tough guy in crime movies and spearheaded the evolution of the British film criminal from the gentlemen thief to more ruthless figures, often working-class, in films such Hell Drivers (1957), Joseph Losey’s The Criminal and Peter Yate’s 1967 heist film, Robbery.

Last weekend he would have been 88, were he still alive. To mark his career, I have a piece on the British Film Institute site looking at his 10 essential films. You can read it in full here.

Hell Drivers

Hell Drivers poster01When we think classic noir cinema, we usually think of America. But in the forties, fifties and sixties, Britain produced its share of great noirs.

The British noirs I’ve seen are dark, brutal affairs, perhaps even more uncompromising than their American counterparts because of their depiction of the UK’s all pervasive and claustrophobic class system. Films like Brighton Rock (1949), The Third Man (1949), Basil Dreaden’s heist film, The League of Gentlemen and John Guillermin’s Never Let Go (which both came out in 1960) and the terrific Joseph Losey movie starring Dirk Bogarde, The Servant (1963).

But without doubt one of the best and toughest of the crop of post-war British noirs was Cy Endfield’s 1957 film, Hell Drivers. From the very beginning, the view from the cabin of a truck being driven at dangerously high speed, The Hell Drivers brims with pent up fury.

The plot of Hell Drivers is fairly simple. Tom (Stanley Baker) plays a young working class man fresh out of jail following a botched heist that crippled his brother (David McCallum) and left him with a huge burden of guilt. He takes a job at Hawlett Trucking Company. The work involves him driving a ten tonne truck to a gravel pit, loading gravel, and transporting it to a new construction site, as quickly and as many times a day as they can.… Read more

Warren Oates, Gloria Grahame & other subjects for fiction anthologies

OatesThe recent release of Crime Factory’s LEE, an anthology of crime fiction inspired by the life of iconic actor Lee Marvin, has got me thinking about who else would be a good subject for similar treatment.

There’s already been a bit of chatter on Twitter about other actors people would like to see as the subject of their own fictional anthology, and several authors have contacted me with ideas.

There are only two criteria involved I can think of in choosing a subject.

First, the subject concerned has got to be deceased, preferably passed a while ago. It’s just too complex, legally and other ways to do an anthology based on someone living.

Second, there’s got to be something about them. Not just an interesting body of cinematic work and an interesting life, but an ongoing cultural resonance or zeitgeist that sets them apart from other actors and allows crime writers discuss broader issues.

Here are my picks for actors I think would be good subjects. And I should stress, these are just my musings and in no way reflect what Crime Factory will do in the future.

That said, you never know….

Warren Oates

There’s already been a bit of social media chatter about the possibility of a Warren Oates inspired anthology.… Read more

The heist always goes wrong, part 1: ten of the best heist movies ever made

asphalt01I love a good heist film.

I love the genius and intricacy of their plots and the variations they come in, whether it be the all star team assembled for a job or the desperate ex-cons trying for one last score.

But most of all I love them because of the golden rule of all good heist films – for whatever reason, the heist always goes wrong.

What do you need for a good heist?

You need a plan for actual heist itself, the getaway, and moving, storing and fencing whatever it is you’ve stolen. The more complicated the plan, the more likely it is that something will go wrong.

You need a crew of people; one man or woman alone cannot do a heist. This introduces the human element and all the problems that come with it, the greed, suspicions, jealousies and uncertainties.

I’ve been thinking for a while now about what my top ten-heist films would be and the following list, in no particular order, is it.

The robbery itself is almost immaterial to how I rate a good heist film. What I like is the context and atmosphere in which the heist takes place and inevitable problems that arise after it’s been pulled off. And the darker and more broken things get, the better the film is in my book.… Read more