Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Joseph Cotten meets the swingin' 60s!

A few years back, the satellite box guide listed the movie Jack of Diamonds, a movie from 1949 about jewel thieves. I had missed most of the movie, but I was surprised to turn the TV on and see some guy in color, swingining from a trapeze in what looked like a castle, followed by a jewel heist. Obviously, this wasn't the movie I thought I'd be getting. It turned out that what was showing was a movie called Jack of Diamonds, but it was from 1967. (There was in fact a 1949 movie called The Jack of Diamonds, but it's got a different plot. Obviously, the box guide screwed up.) This 1967 movie, which has TCM's Star of the Month Joseph Cotten in the cast, is airing at 5:00 AM on December 17.

Cotten plays the Ace of Diamonds, a more or less retired jewel thief living the high life. He's got a protégé in the Jack of Diamonds (played by George Hamilton), who is working with the Ace to plan elaborate heists, from their castle in the Bavarian Alps. That trapeze I mentioned? Hamilton swings from it in order to keep up his litheness and ability swing from one rooftop to another. Cotten has an old friend who's also a thief, and he's got a plan to make one of the most audacious robberies ever seen, of a seemingly impregnable fortress in Paris. But, he needs the help of the Ace and Jack of Diamonds....

This is a movie that's really not very good, but it's a lot of fun. It's filled with gorgeous 60s locations, and the 60s version of glamour (complete with cameos by stars like Zsa Zsa Gabor and Carroll Baker). However, the movie has little in the way of an original plot, as the heist seems to be recycled from any of the other robbery movies of the era. That, and poor Joseph Cotten looks horribly miscast. He's trying -- but what on earth is he doing with swingin' (both figuratively and literally) George Hamilton? Meanwhile, the 60s keep right on swingin', regardless of anything Joseph Cotten might do.

But then, they weren't making movies like this to have any deep meaning. They were meant to be escapist fun that filled the seats, and a movie like Jack of Diamonds certainly fits the escapism bill. Watch it at least once to get that taste of the 60s. Sadly, this is that one chance, as the movie seems not to have been released to DVD.

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