Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Anderson Tapes

I probably should have blogged about The Anderson Tapes yesterday. I thought it was airing a little later in the week, but it's actually on today at 2:00 PM on TCM. The TCM shop says you can't get it on DVD from them, but Amazon does offer a couple of different DVD releases. At any rate, it's also going to be airing again at the end of November on TCM.

The Anderson of the title is played by Sean Connery. He's a career thief who, at the beginning of the movie is just being released from prison after serving a long stint for one of his heists. After getting out of prison, he goes to see his old girlfriend Ingrid (Dyan Cannon). She's now a sort of kept woman, having done like Barbara Stanwyck in Baby Face and slept her way to that deee-luxe apartment. Although, in Ingrid's case, it's not quite in the sky, but in a posh building on New York's Central Park East. Anderson moves in with Ingrid, but as we see, somebody's bugging her phone.

Surveillance is one of the major themes of The Anderson Tapes. Anderson himself notices that security has become rather more sophisticated since he went to prison, what with the massive increase in closed-circuit TVs that would have been prohibitively expensive in the early 1960s when Anderson went off to jail, but by 1971 when the movie was made had become more affordable. Anderson knows, however (even if it's not directly stated), that surveillance equipment can be defeated: after all, the cameras are watched by people, and if you can get your own people doing the watching you've rather defeated the cameras. (Heck, even the ancient Romans understood this basic fact of human nature.) And so, Anderson gets the idea to rob every unit in Ingrid's apartment building and fence the valuables for a tidy sum. But to do this, Anderson is going to need to assemble an entire team. First up is the interior decorator Haskins, a campy gay stereotype humorously played by Martin Balsam. What Anderson doesn't realize is that, completely separately from the surveillance of Ingrid's building, the FBI has wired Haskins' shop because they think he's a fence. Anderson continues to assemble his team, completely unaware that everybody he's hiring is being watched by some outside entity for some reason or other.

Having assembled the team, it's on to the heist itself. Several of the building's residents are in their apartments, so Anderson and his gang have to threaten some force to carry out their heist. It's something that two of the residents, little old ladies played by Margaret Hamilton and Judith Lowry, find immensely exciting. There's also a bedridden kid, and a couple of heavy sleepers, who slow down the heist. In most heist films, something causes the heist to go wrong and not succeed; part of the fun of the movie is seeing just what trips the thieves up. The heavy sleepers are part of it, but the other part isn't the surveillance of all of Anderson's other conspirators.

There's a lot good going for The Anderson Tapes: entertaining performances for one. I haven't mentioned Christopher Walken, here in one of his earliest performances as "The Kid" whose part in the heist is disabling surveillance equipment. There's also the vintage location shooting that gives an atmosphere of authenticity. On top of all that is the narrative structure. Especially when it comes to the heist, it's told in part by flashing forward to the aftermath of the heist, and the witnesses talking about what happened to them at the point in the heist where they're involved. It's a device that works well, and imbues some more dark comic relief.

All in all, The Anderson Tapes is well made, and incredibly entertaining. It's a movie that deserves to be much better known than it is.

No comments: