Cinema Monolith

Reviews of movies from my giant DVD tower, and more.

Armored Car Robbery

Armored Car Robbery - poster fixCinema Monolith: 9/10 This film is part of the Cinema Monolith collection!
IMDb: 7.0/10
Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide: *** out of 4

Released on June 8, 1950
Not rated
67 minutes

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)

William Talman in Armored Car Robbery

24 comments on “Armored Car Robbery

  1. Dracula

    Bravo, I want to see this movie. Just went down to the local library and could not find it here in Transylvania. Instead I got Vampire on the Road. Story about Vlad and his purchase of a local 1985 Romanian Dacia and he takes to the road at night across the hills of Transylvania. In search of pretty ladies of course.

    • Todd B

      Well of course he’s searching for pretty ladies…what else is he going to do with an ’85 Dacia? But if he really wants to score some Hammer beauties, he should rent himself a ’77 Celica GT instead. And at first I was thinking, ha, that’s pretty funny, it sounds like a Romanian variation on Il Sorpasso. And then when I tried to look up the title…hmmm, no such luck. Is it a movie so obscure to have no listing, or am I being duped by my vampiric friend?

      • Dracula

        You mean this one isn’t in the Cinema Monolith, hard to believe!

      • Todd B

        I’ve got a fair number of half-whacked Dracula films on my shelf, but Vampire on the Road is not one of them.

      • Dracula

        By the way where is that 77 Celica GT now? In a museum or melted down for Campbell soup cans?

      • Todd B

        Last I knew of it, it was sold by my step-dad in Tempe, Arizona back in 1989, when it proved to be too costly for me to fix. Looking back, I should’ve kept the damn thing…it was a fun little car.

  2. Quiggy

    I’m interested in William Talman as a bad guy, now that I’ve watched The Hitch-Hiker. Before all I knew him was as the straight-laced DA on Perry Mason. Good review.

    • Todd B

      Thanks Quiggy, and thanks again for hosting the cool blogathon! I was going to recommend The Hitch-Hiker to you for some quality psychotic Talman, but you’ve already seen that one. So how about City That Never Sleeps instead? (And of course, Armored Car Robbery). Looking at Talman’s list of movie credits, I was surprised to see there isn’t as many ‘bad guy’ noir roles there as I’d thought.

  3. “Rarely discussed gem” is right! I’ve never even heard of this film, but you’ve completely sold me.

    You make a good point about noir films being shot away from the studio. Even though they are, by nature, engrossing films, the on-location shoots make them even more gritty and realistic.

    • Todd B

      Hi Ruth! I hope you’re able to track this one down…I really think it’ll be worth your time. And all those bygone things to see in noir films: automats, LA trolley cars, old trains and automobiles, fashions and hairstyles…a great visual time capsule of the ’40s and ’50s.

      • Absolutely! Sometimes seeing automats, etc., in action are as interesting as the film itself.

      • Todd B

        Automats: uncovered food sitting on shelves waiting to be grabbed by hungry customers…something we’ll never see again. Oh wait, yes we do…I think they’re called ‘buffets’ now.

  4. Lindsey

    Adding this one to my watch list!

    • Todd B

      Hope you’re able to find it…I just checked YouTube, and it doesn’t seem to be readily available, so maybe your TCM app will be of help. Of course, you could always search out a cheap VHS copy at a thrift store! Thanks for the visit, Lindsey!

  5. Vienna

    I love this film . Must have watched it half a dozen times. Great cast led by the one and only McGraw. Thanks for highlighting it.

    • Todd B

      I’ve probably watched this one a half-dozen times as well, but this was the first time I really noticed how smart and well-made it was, especially for a ‘B’ movie of the 1950s. And looking at McGraw’s resume, I had no idea he’d starred in so many films; I’ll have to start giving them a look. Thanks for the visit, Vienna!

  6. Dave Purvis (Talman) is one of my favourite film villains. What a cold creature he is in this movie!

    • Todd B

      You got that right, Patricia! He is indeed one cold-hearted and mean-spirited SOB. But I guess if you step outside the box, and consider what he does for his ‘job’, and that his life depends on success at that job, then I guess he has to be cold-hearted and mean-spirited (and smart about it, too). If you haven’t already, check out The Hitch-Hiker…he’s equally compelling in that one as well.

  7. Stu

    Sounds / looks great. This is one I’d like to check out. I’m not really familiar with McGraw either.

    • Todd B

      McGraw is a fun one to watch, especially in his noir films. I know you have a backlog of unfinished caveman films to get to, but if you ever have the chance, also check out The Narrow Margin, the original version from the 1950s…a very cool ‘B’ film, and McGraw does a great job in the lead role.

      • Stu

        I will do!

      • Todd B

        Cool! This could be your first review of a black-and-white movie since Time Table!

  8. grandrapidsgirl

    C’mon, fess-up… it’s the noir / baseball-setting mix that earned this goodie a CM “9”! Sounds excellent and like a “must see” film! And thanks go out to Dracula for clueing me in on what a “Dacia” is! Had to Google that one. Your fan-base really climbed on this one – great job Todd! 🙂

    PS: Have I told you lately how much WordPress hates me?!

    • Todd B

      Hmmm…perhaps that ballpark opening did boost my star rating a bit…from maybe an 8.4 to a 9.0! And I didn’t know what a ‘Dacia’ was either, so I was going to make a joke about it sounding like a car, and…it turned out to be a car. And yes, I’ve heard rumors that you may be a bit, well, ‘frazzled’ with WordPress, to put it mildly. Thanks for the visit, Julie!

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Movies Reviewed: 224

From the Monolith: 124

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