Sunday, February 09, 2014

Gangster Story (1959)

When Woody Allen made TAKE THE MONEY AND RUN, he must have had this film in mind, which features a plot device of a bank robber staging a heist by pretending to be filming a movie about a bank robbery. Except this premise is rendered entirely ludicrous here by the fact that there is no crew or equipment present, and indeed no indication whatsoever that a filming is actually in progress, even as the robber walks out carrying a sack of money, waving to the policemen, and driving off.

That gives some idea of the rest of the film, about a gangster (played by Walter Matthau in a performance that resembles a cross between Humphrey Bogart and Ned Sparks) whose brilliant heist plan attracts the attention of some mobsters (who are about as menacing as the Bowery Boys) that want to recruit him for their scheme to rob a country club. The film is filled with such ridiculous scenes as Matthau knocking a man out and stealing his car in the middle of a crowded parking lot, killing a man on a golf course with a club, and wheeling the safe out of the country club office in broad daylight.

This was the first - and only - film directed by Walter Matthau. Unfortunately the direction is highly inept, including mismatched day-for-night shots, violating the 180 degree rule, and an entirely post-dubbed soundtrack that has the result of giving all of the dialogue an oddly-paced, clipped style that is unnatural and distracting. The acting is amateurish and even Matthau comes off quite poorly here. The most interesting part of the film is its extensive location footage of late '50s LA, but even the photography is so mediocre that there isn't anything particularly effective done with any of it.

Directed by Walter Matthau. Written by Paul Purcell from a story by Richard Grey and V.J. Rhems. Edited by Radley Metzger. Starring Matthau, Carol Grace, Bruce MacFarlane, Gerrett Wallberg, Raiken BenAri, David Leonard and others.

No comments: