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Sunday, January 12, 2014

SEVEN THIEVES (1960)

Living up to its release date, this caper pic falls right between gritty genre predecessors like THE ASPHALT JUNGLE/’50 or RIFIFI/’55 and lighter examples of the form such as OCEAN’S 11 (out a few months later) or GAMBIT/’66. This modest, but slickly crafted entry features your basic Monte Carlo casino take down (though the town isn’t mentioned), with vet helmer Henry Hathaway making the logistics of the grand scam both readable & believable. Most impressive considering that the film was edited together with nothing but Second Unit location footage for all the backgrounds. The script moves at a clip, with character exposition well integrated into the boring, but necessary plot/robbery exposition that so often clog this genre up like narrative cholesterol. There’s even an ending that neatly wiggles free of Production Code morality. But the film would be little more than a decent, reasonably suspenseful time-waster if it weren’t for a certain unmistakable Ring-a-Ding cadence planted into the Rod Steiger role once he agrees to be group leader for the caper’s designer-in-chief Edward G. Robinson. It’s not just that Steiger’s role has so obviously been written with Frank Sinatra in mind, but that Steiger, without in any way doing a vocal impression, gives all his lines that swaggering sense of Sinatra entitlement & rhythm.* It almost supplies the missing dollop of charm Steiger needs to pull off the relationship roundelay that spins out between him, Eli Wallach & a very appealing Joan Collins.

SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: *Steiger never did work with Sinatra, but he came close when Frankie got hired, then paid off, once Marlon Brando took on the lead in ON THE WATERFRONT/’52. Maybe Rod got some tips from Eddie G., fresh off his co-starring gig as Sinatra’s older brother in A HOLE IN THE HEAD/’59? Heck, even the production staff took note, using Sinatra’s recent hit 'You Make Me Feel So Young’ as orchestral background during the big casino gala.

DOUBLE-BILL: Any of the caper pics mentioned above would do nicely, but especially OCEAN'S 11.

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