Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Odds Against Tomorrow

Apparently I've never blogged about Odds Against Tomorrow. It's coming up overnight at 2:15 AM as part of this month's TCM series of heist and caper movies, and most definitely deserves a viewing, especially since the DVD seems to be out of print.

Ed Begley plays Dave Burke, a policeman who's left the force in less-than-honorable circumstances. As a policeman, he knows quite a bit about crime from the other side, that being how the police try to detect it and stop it. Perfect knowledge, you'd think, for somebody who wants to commit a crime. And boy does Burke want that. He's fingered a small-town bank and has an elaborate plan to rob it. The only thing is, it's something he can't do alone. And so, he's found two people to help him. Hary Belafonte plays Johnny Ingram, a nightclub singer with alimony and child support payments driving him deeply into debt. Well, there's the illegal gambling too. Obviously, somebody desperately in need of a quick buck is a good candidate to be roped into a heist. The other partner is Robert Ryan, playing Earle Slater. He's a released prisoner who, having been in jail, is now on the margins of society, not able to eke out much of a living. But he's got knowledge of how to rob. So Burke recruits both Ingram and Slater.

What could go wrong? Well, this is a heist movie and one filmed while the Production Code was still being enforced, so we know that something has to go wrong. In the case of Odds Against Tomorrow, much of that is down to Slater. Not only is he a former prisoner, he's a transplant from the South, which means he's a pretty vicious racist. And with Ingram as a black man being in on the job, it's clear right from the beginning that there's going to be tension between the two that might just doom the whole plan. (You'd think Burke could have found a way around this.) Can Slater trust Ingram? And can Ingram overcome his understandable distrust of racists to carry out his part in a plan that will benefit one of those racists? Shades of The Defiant Ones here.

Harry Belafonte always strikes me as a bit of a lightweight: more than good enough for supporting roles as in Bright Road, but a bit lacking when he gets a bigger part as in Carmen Jones. That having been said, he's more than adequate here. He's overshadowed by Robert Ryan, though. Ryan is one of those actors who could play the menacing with a violent temper under the surface type seemingly in his sleep. As such, this is a role that looks as though comes easily to him, and he pulls it off effortlessly, giving a superb performance. Ed Begley was a good actor, although here he's really more of a supporting role linking the Ryan and Belafonte characters. There are probably a lot of character actors who could have played it, but that's not a knock on Begley. I haven't mentioned the women yet. Shelley Winters plays the Slater's girlfriend Lorry, and she might be even more clingy here than her character in A Place in the Sun. Gloria Grahame plays their neighbor, showing a romantic interest in Slater. Ingram's ex-wife is played by Kim Hamilton in a smallish role that, while small, seems realistically drawn. Odds Against Tomorrow also benefits from bleak black-and-white photography, much of which was done on location in Hudson, NY, maybe two hours from New York City and about an hour away from where I am here in the Catskills on the other side of the Hudson River

If you haven't seen Odds Against Tomorrow before, this is your chance to do so. It did get a DVD release, but I think it's out of print since Amazon lists only a couple of copies available for purchase and TCM doesn't list it as being available for purchase at all.

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