Tag Archives: Ernest Borgnine

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

Emperor of the North

A couple of months ago I stumbled across the existence of Melbourne-based independent movie distribution company, Bounty Films. The movie that introduced me to them was their release of the hard to get 1955 heist film, Violent Saturday.

Following on from that, Ben Hellwig, Bounty’s Acquisition Manager, was good enough to send me a few of the choice selections from their rapidly expanding catalogue, including a film I’ve been wanting to see for ages called Emperor of the North (or Emperor of the North Pole as its otherwise know).

Made in 1973, Emperor of the North has three big things going for it.

First, Robert Aldrich, who did The Dirty Dozen and one of my all time favourite film noirs, Kiss Me Deadly, directed it.

Second, it stars one of my cinematic icons, Lee Marvin.

Third, it has steam trains. Lots of them.

Emperor of the North takes place in the Pacific Northwest of the United States at the height of the great depression. Economic chaos has created an army of drifters and hoboes who roam the countryside hopping trains when they can.

Except for the number 19, watched over by a sadistic train guard known as Shack (played with eye popping intensity by Ernest Borgnine). With the aid of the large hammer he carries in his belt, Shack ensures that no one rides the number 19 for free.… 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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