Reviews of movies from my giant DVD tower, and more.
Released on June 8, 1950
Directed by Richard Fleischer
Written by Earl Felton and Gerald Drayson Adams
Cast: Charles McGraw, Adele Jergens, William Talman, Douglas Fowley, Steve Brodie, Don McGuire, Don Haggerty, James Flavin, Gene Evans, Paul E. Burns, Barry Brooks, Anne Nagel
One of the many things I like about film noir movies is that most are filmed away from the studio and on-location, usually on the gritty black-and-white streets of New York, Chicago, or LA, where shots of actual buildings, storefronts, and nightspots can be seen in all their classic mid-century glory. Along with the usual array of restaurants, bars, theaters, clubs, and railroad stations, I also get a kick out of any classic movie scene that features a shot of a baseball ballpark, whether it’s an interior view of a game in-progress, or an exterior look at the stadium facade and concourse.
And Armored Car Robbery delivers on that latter detail from the get-go: an opening sequence that takes place outside a minor league park—the other ivy-covered Wrigley Field, located in a neighborhood south of Los Angeles—and which kicks off a very fun and compact crime film from the fine folks at RKO. The stadium serves as a catalyst for the events that follow, and as a collision point for our two marvelous lead actors: noir stalwart Charles McGraw, cool as always, and the perpetually-testy William Talman, as the brains behind a half-million dollar heist.
This time McGraw is on the side of good, playing a police detective who responds to a false-alarm robbery call during an afternoon game at the stadium. In reality, it’s not an actual heist, but instead a pre-heist test run staged and timed by Talman, the leader of a gang planning to knock off an armored truck that makes its final stop of the day at the park. The true heist comes later, where of course it’s botched, and the remainder of the film is spent following the gang as they scramble to escape the city, with McGraw and the LA police force hot on their trail.
Ask me who my favorite noir actor is, and the answer will always be Charles McGraw. Whether playing good guys or bad, in lead or supporting roles, his tough attitude and serious demeanor always command your attention whenever he’s on screen. Though adept at playing dedicated detectives (The Narrow Margin, Side Street) as well as hoodlums (The Killers, T-Men), I’m partial to his work on the right side of the law, where his hard-edged voice—one that always sounds like he’s battling a sore throat—and stern features make for a more respected hero than villain.
In fact, all the main actors—including Adele Jergens’ blonde bombshell stripper—play their parts with a straightforward, no-nonsense mentality that adds a down-and-dirty realism to their characters, and the dark territory they inhabit. Richard Fleischer, who directed several outstanding noir entries before and after this one, offers up plenty of quality shots, angles, and ideas, and the screenplay by Earl Felton and Gerald Drayson Adams gives both the director and actors some choice interactions and crackling dialogue to work with.
This is one nifty little crime film, a rarely-discussed gem stocked with enough film noir elements to keep any noir enthusiast entertained for the entirety of its brisk 67-minute run time. There are so many things to love about it, from Fleischer’s steady work behind the camera, to a story enhanced by many delectable touches and twists, and right down to that shot of Talman and the Wrigley Field clock tower; I can’t help but recommend it, especially to fans of the style. It’s a prime example of what, to me, the noir world is all about, and it’s definitely a film worth seeking out. (9/10)