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Friday, June 22, 2012

THE ANDERSON TAPES (1971)

The secret word on this NYC caper pic is SURVEILLANCE, but Sidney Lumet & scripter Frank Pierson don’t do enough with the idea. Sean Connery, fresh out of jail, moves in with gal-pal Dyan Cannon, a pricey tart who’s landed a lux flat on the Upper East Side. He figures he can rob everyone in the whole ultra-exclusive building with a gang of his prison buds and a start-up stake from his old mob pal Alan King. The gimmick is that his every move is being video taped or heard via wire-tap on various unrelated investigations already in place. Yet, he’s protected since any response from the cops or the Feds would screw up all the on-going cases. It’s a neat angle for a caper pic; if only Lumet & Pierson followed up on it. Instead, we get a series of meet-cutes as Connery puts his gang together and scopes out the victims. Even this might work if Lumet wasn’t still wedded to his coarse tv style, punctuating his laughs with gross close-ups designed to play on a small telly screen along with some alarmingly stagy character acting. (Two years later, Lumet would finally break out of his tv mind-set with SERPICO/’73.) At least, we can enjoy all the NYC location stuff, not so common at the time, a toupee-less Connery and a smiley Christopher Walken in his dewy debut. (And cringe at a couple of stereotypical gay types.) Plus, Lumet fanciers will want to stick it out to see a preview of better things to come starting with a smash ‘reveal’ in the third act (you’ll have no trouble spotting it) which sets up a suspenseful finale using sharp parallel cuts between the on-going robbery and the on-coming cops. They even manage to get one of those surveillance cameras involved with the plot.

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