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  They Came to Rob Las Vegas The Man Don't Give A TruckBuy this film here.
Year: 1968
Director: Antonio Isasi-Isasmendi
Stars: Gary Lockwood, Elke Sommer, Lee J. Cobb, Jack Palance, Georges Géret, Gustavo Re, Daniel Martin, Maurizio Arena, Armand Mestral, Fabrizio Capucci, Enrique Ávila, Gérard Tichy, Fernando Hilbeck, Carlos Ballesteros, Antonio Casas, Jean Servais
Genre: Thriller
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Gino (Jean Servais) is a mobster who has just escaped from prison in the American Deep South, practically in a hail of bullets from the police, and now he is out he is determined to pick up from where he left off. There is another criminal mastermind who bases his operations in Las Vegas, millionaire Steve Skorsky (Lee J. Cobb), and Gino means to break him by stealing from one of the armoured trucks that carry his profits out of his casinos and into a place of financial safety, but Skorsky prides himself on conducting a foolproof, not to mention theftproof, state of business affairs. Gino believes otherwise and asks his former associate Tony Ferris (Gary Lockwood) to assist, but Tony points out times have moved on...

It was something of a statement of intent for a heist movie of the nineteen-sixties to cast the actor who kicked off the whole thriller subgenre in that decade, Jean Servais star of the international sensation Rififi, and then see to it that his character was gunned down during the opening ten minutes. What was director Antonio Isasi-Isasmendi trying to tell us? That he could do the whole caper thing so well that he could afford to put the past classics in their place because he was here to shake it all up? It's not as if he was a young upstart when he helmed this, so maybe it was more of a seen it all before frame of mind he was in, which explained a tone that veered between the amused and the ruthless.

A strange combination, but it would seem he was influenced by how the Italian cinema industry had revived the Western in the sixties and applied the same mechanics to the heist movie, albeit not a genre that really needed a huge amount of tinkering to be a success, it was more in the trappings that it prevailed, no matter that a nice twist didn't go amiss either. There was the odd one of those here, but what was more interesting was that if you compared this to the Hollywood capers, they would be lighthearted for the most part, or at least with a breezy sense of humour to carry it over any of the more serious implications that may have arisen, only in this case you might have begun thinking, well this is fun, but there was a steely-eyed grit to it as well.

So you could just about take the opening failed robbery, which sees the cops blast the thieves with all their artillery and leaving them dead, and think okay, it’s still fun-looking even with the amount of death it abruptly introduced, but by the end and the no honour among thieves message well and truly underlined, you could recognise that, for example, Frank Sinatra would not have murdered anyone in Ocean's Eleven (and George Clooney wouldn’t have in Ocean's 11 either, decades later) since such an act would have soured the mood of what we had expected to be sleek fun. With the lead here being Gary Lockwood, fresh off 2001: A Space Odyssey but soon to be settling in to a mid-level television career, then the director apparently thought he could take chances with less of a major star.

To an extent he was right, even now unless you're an aficionado of vintage television of the sixties and seventies (Lockwood was in the original Star Trek pilot, still his joint claim to fame with his Stanley Kubrick work) you won't know what to expect from the actor here, and while he was looking cool enough he remained an unknown quantity when it came to how Tony would behave. His co-stars were more predictable, with Elke Sommer in the girlfriend with inside knowledge role, Cobb as a generic gangster-connected boss, and Jack Palance, setting up the three-way conflict which was kind of Kubrickian one could say, as the insurance investigator who is determined to catch Skorsky out. Although it was too long to the point of self-indulgence, it did look very well-photographed in that sixties fashion, and with most of the action taking place in the desert that Spaghetti Western analogy (as well as Las Vegas, this was shot in Spain where many of those were made) held true. If it did not eradicate memories of Rififi, then it didn't embarrass itself either; you needed a tolerance for its atmosphere and tricks, but if you did you would find much to appreciate. Oddly wistful score by Georges Garvarentz.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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