Sunday, January 3, 2016

Seven Thieves

Among the many movies sitting on my DVR, I finally got around to watching Seven Thieves. It's going to be on FXM Retro again tomorrow at 11:00 PM and sometime Tuesday, so you've got a chance to catch it if you want.

The movie starts off with "Professor" Theo Wilkins (Edward G. Robinson) at the seaside at one of those French Riviera resorts, looking like he's enjoying the life there. But he's really down on his luck, and in France for a different reason, as you can probably guess from the title of the movie. As for why he's specifically at the seashore, well, that's where he's waiting for his young friend Paul Mason (Rod Steiger) to show up. Paul is actaully a protégé of Theo's and somebody Theo believes he can trust, which is going to be extremely necessary for the job he's got lined up.

That job, as you should have realized by now, is a heist; in this specific case a casino heist. They're going to go into one of the ritzy casinos in Monte Carlo, rob it of about $4 million in French francs, that being a very tidy sum back in 1960 even split seven ways. As to how they're going to pull it off, well, that will be made clearer a little later in the movie.

Theo has already assembled a cast of candidates suitable for the job: nightclub singer Melanie (Joan Collins); safecracker Louis (Michael Dante); driver Hugo (Berry Kroeger); Mealnie's protector Poncho (Eli Wallach); and inside man Raymond (Alexander Scourby). But, not all of them are quite thrilled about the plan, in part because they're not being given all the details. How, exactly, are they going to get the cash out of the building? The less they need to know, the better. Further, they don't like that Paul is more or less going to be making all the decisions, leaving the rest of them to take orders. And then Poncho in particular finds that his role in the caper requires him to do something very unpleasant.

But of course everybody agrees to participate, since otherwise we wouldn't have a movie. They get to the casino, and we're treated to a standard-issue caper movie. There's good suspense on a bunch of fronts, with a bunch of twists and turns leading the viewer to ask, "Is this the place where the caper will break down?" Since the Production Code was still in place, the plan must eventually fall apart, but the ways in which it does certainly surprised me, which is a good thing.

Overall, however, Seven Thieves comes across as a bit perfunctory. There's nothing particularly wrong, but there's also nothing particularly fresh and memorable the way there is in other heist movies. Robinson is good as always; Steiger might be a bit too intense; Wallach looks dissipated which is what the role calls for; Kroger looks like he's trying to impersonate Erich von Stroheim's chauffeur scenes from Sunset Blvd.. Joan Collins is nice to look at, and gets to display some ingenuity too. The result is something that does entertain, but also something you may not think to put in for multiple viewings. The movie did get a DVD release, but I'm not certain if it's still in print.

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