Monday, February 24, 2014


Gino gets out of jail and immediately wants to pull an armored truck robbery; his younger brother Tony isn't so sure.  But when the job goes wrong and Gino is killed, Tony decides to get revenge against Skorsky, the head of the armored truck company, who claims that his security systems are invulnerable. Tony gets a job as a blackjack dealer at a Las Vegas casino, seduces Ann, Skorsky's personal secretary, so that she'll get him the inside info he needs, and gathers a gang to help him. The plan: hijack the truck, take it to the desert between Vegas and Los Angeles, and drive it into an underground garage beneath the sand where they can take their time breaking it open. But little do they know that Skorsky is being watched by the Feds who suspect him of smuggling gold with his legitimate deliveries, so a couple of Treasury agents happen to be on board the truck. Once they get the truck under the sand, the guys start squabbling among themselves, and eventually some Mafia men also get involved.  The climax involves helicopters, lots of dead bodies, and lots of cash blowing in the sand.

At the start, this movie has the general feel of a carefree 60s caper movie, but generous amounts of bloodspilling and bad feelings take this off in a darker direction--and it's a half-hour too long. The film looks good (see it in widescreen) and the musical score has a nice Euro-60s feel. Considering the conflicting agendas of the various characters, it's easy to follow, and some of the plot mechanics are ingenious. For example, the garage beneath the desert: I don't for a second believe that could have been done, but the shot of the truck vanishing under the sand is pretty cool.  The way they manage to waylay the truck in the first place is also nifty. When the movie sticks to these details, it's fun, but when the characters take center stage, not so much. Gary Lockwood (above) is Tony; as a physical presence, I could watch Lockwood parade around in a snug t-shirt and jeans for the length of an entire movie (which I did while watching MODEL SHOP), but here he mostly wears too many clothes so I had to concentrate on his acting. He's a passive low-key actor, but this part seems to be suited to someone with a little more crazy passion, and I got tired of him having to carry most of the film with his one-note performance. As Ann, Elke Sommer is sexy but just as bland-acting as Lockwood. Jack Palance is OK as the head of the Feds, but Lee J. Cobb is good as Skorsky. Another problem is the moral dynamic. I think we're supposed to sympathize with Tony getting revenge for his brother, but we're not shown enough of their relationship to care, and Tony becomes neurotically focused on breaking open the truck (the fact that he doesn't really care about the money is supposed to make us admire him, but it didn't work for me). Skorsky is a slimeball, leaving us with just the Feds to care about, but we don't really get to know them. This was filmed partly on location, but the desert scenes were shot is Spain, and aside from the lead actors, the rest of the cast is composed of French and Italian actors who are all distractingly dubbed by English-speaking actors. [TCM]

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