This ramshackle comic-caper is piffle, a low-rent cousin to THE HOT ROCK/’72 (a starrier adaptation of a Donald Westlake novel). George C. Scott, with an alarming pair of waggly eyebrows, is the bank heist genius who busts out of prison (via Caterpillar Tractor) with a new idea - don’t steal the cash, steal the whole damn bank. Specifically, a bank that’s using a mobile home as a temp location. Reattach a set of wheels and drive a fortune away. With pieces & players out of a Looney Tunes cartoon, Wendell Mayes’ script bypasses reality (or suspense), but starts to lift-off halfway thru on its silliness quotient and a decent amount of low-brow comic energy. Gower Champion, in a rare film directing gig, dances past the sort of credible set-ups Blake Edwards might have worked out, instead concentrating on surprise landings and some very funny payoffs. He even picks up on the Looney Tunes idea in an extended one-take sequence played out as a lovely long-shot b&w silhouette. Unexpectedly likeable, with a blissed out ending of pure Dada absurdity.
DOUBLE-BILL: As mentioned above, THE HOT ROCK.
ATTENTION MUST BE PAID: Theater choreographers show a remarkably high success ratio transitioning into film directors. Like Champion, Michael Kidd & Jerome Robbins hardly got started, yet show mature, fluid, personal techniques from their first camera set-up. While the likes of Charles Walters, Stanley Donen, Bob Fosse, Herb Ross & now Rob Marshall managed to thread the Hollywood career needle.
SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: Champion died the night before his smash production of 42ND STREET opened on Broadway. Yet no one in the cast knew he was dead when show producer David Merrick announced it on stage in front of a cheering (then quickly stunned), sold-out house during the show’s curtain calls. Why no one has turned this classic movie story into a classic movie is a mystery.