Review: Seven Thieves

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You ever notice how two films seemingly are filmed and released at similar times with more then a passing resemblance of each other? Whether it is a film about an asteroid hitting earth or two bio pics about the same subject coming out within a few months of each other. I’m not sure if this is some weird coincidence or counter measures from rival studios. This must have been the case when in 1960, two films with similar plots and even similar names came out. Seven Thieves was released five months before Frank Sinatra’s Ocean’s Eleven. Ocean’s Eleven is a star studded comedy about a group of thieves who plan to rob a big casino. Seven Thieves is a star studded film with a more noir flavor, about a group of thieves who plan to rob a big casino.

The film starts out with Edward G. Robinson recruiting Rod Steiger for a casino heist. Steiger is reluctant, but agrees to join the group as long as he can be in charge. Robinson is the brains and money man behind this heist and agrees to Steiger’s demands. The rest of the group is not as happy about the addition.

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Part of the existing team is femme fatale Joan Collins. Her job is to seduce the man that will be able to get them into the casino.

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She is a dancer at a club and her target is her number one fan. Collins is good friends with Eli Wallach, who has taken care of her since she was young. Another noir notable is Michael Dante as the safe cracker.

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This film is based on a book by Max Catto and is directed by Henry Hathaway. This has to be influenced by the film Bob le Flambeur. If you are a fan of Ocean’s 11, but would like something a little darker, check out Seven Thieves. This film is nothing ground breaking, but is a fun movie worth watching.

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Review: Illegal

Illegal is a film noir from 1955 starring film noir great Edward G. Robinson.  This film is also one of the first films of Jane Mansfield’s short career.

The film is directed by Lewis Allen and a screenplay by noir writers W.R. Burnett and James R. Webb based on a story from Frank J. Collins.  This is the third time Collins’ story was brought to the silver screen.  I’ve never seen the other two films, so I can not compare the three.

This movie starts out with Robinson as a District Attorney winning a case.  We see the man convicted going to the electric chair.  Robinson is rushing to the hospital where he is given a death-bed confession.  He calls the prison and is too late, they have executed an innocent man Robinson got convicted.  Robinson quits the office and soon becomes a defense attorney.  He is also in love with his assistant, played by Nina Foch who stays at the D.A.’s office and marries another man played by Hugh Marlowe.  Robinson uses his great skills to win cases for some of the worst criminals in town.  This shows one case after another, won in grand fashion by Robinson.  The last case of the film is a very personal one for Robinson’s character and it cranks up the tension and grittiness of the film.

This film is obviously at a  lower quality level then we are used to from Robinson.  Robinson of course was in some of the greatest pre-noir gangster films and a list of some of the best films noir of the 1940’s.  He was then caught up in the McCarthy Un-American Activities Committee.  He testified and was absolved of Communist activities, but was never in anymore great films.  He did elevate films like this one but was never able to re-gain his standing as one of the biggest stars in Hollywood, playing minor parts in big movies and big parts in small movies.

This is still a good film worth watching for Robinson fans and classic film noir fans.  Though it isn’t the same quality of story and production of his earlier stuff, it is still a highly enjoyable performance and film.

Favorite Tidbit:  Edward G. Robinson’s character is loosely based on the famous lawyer Bill Fallon, “The Great Mouthpiece” who got gambler Arnold Rothstein off for the “Black Sox” of 1919 World Series fix.  His likeness has appeared in a number of films and television series over the years.

Review: Scarlet Street

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Scarlet Street is another great film-noir from Fritz Lang.  We have our everyday man and noir staple Edward G. Robinson in the lead.  Joan Bennett as our femme fatale and Dan Duryea as a con and thug trying to get ahead.  This story starts out with our hero at a company party for his 25 years on the job.  He leaves drunk and sees a beautiful women getting beat by a man.  He intervenes and stops it, he walks the women home and stops to have a drink with her.  He is infatuated with the much younger women and she seems to like him as well.  The only problem, he’s married to a battle-ax he can no longer stand.  You think you might guess the plot from here, but you would be wrong.  This is one of the most intricate plots, with so many twists and turns, I can’t believe they got all this story to fit into less than 2 hours of movie.  One of the surprising and shocking things of this movie is the abuse towards women, the way it is portrayed makes it look common and just part of life for the time.  The couple out to get ahead is very co-dependent and I found very disturbing.  This movie has no truly innocent or good characters, all are willing to do anything to get what they want.  None of them want the same thing, but use each other in a way that makes for one intense movie.

The other star of this movie is the art, it’s funny that this and my last film-noir review (See my review of Laura) have a portrait of the lead lady that is amazing.  I didn’t realize this when I watched them a couple of days apart, but is a cool coincidence.  The art in this film is very cool.

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This may be the darkest classic film noir I’ve seen thus far.  There is no gangsters and guns in this movie and that might be what makes this so dark.  I think this is my favorite Fritz Lang film I’ve seen so far.  This isn’t a widely watched noir but it should be.  This film has a 7.9 on IMDb with less than 9,000 votes, and 100% on Rotten Tomatoes but with only 13 reviews.  This film did fall out of copyright protection, so make sure you watch a good version of this that isn’t to cut up and distorted. I watched it on TCM, always a reliable source for classic films.