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BURGLAR, THE (director: Paul Wendkos; screenwriters: David Goodis, from his novel; cinematographer: Don Malkames; editor: Herta Horn; cast: Dan Duryea (Nat Harbin), Peter Capell (Baylock), Jayne Mansfield(Gladden), Mickey Shaughnessy (Dohmer), Martha Vickers (Della), Wendell Phillips (Police Captain), Stewart Bradley (Charlie), Phoebe Mackay (Sister Sara), John Facenda (News Commentator); Runtime: 90; Columbia; 1957)
“The film succeeds as a visual feast…”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A film noir that is more a character study of a small-time jewel thief than one concerned with its pulp story. A team of burglars headed by the brooding Nat Harbin (Dan Duryea), including the edgy jewelry expert Blaylock (Peter Capell), the vulgar strong-arm Dohmer (Mickey Shaughnessy), and the sexy young lady who cases their victim’s homes, Gladden (Jayne Mansfield). After Gladden cases the Philadelphia mansion of a noted spiritualist (Mackay), the gang successfully steals a valuable diamond necklace worth about $150,000. The only hitch in the heist, is that a patrol car spots their abandoned car and Nat is forced to explain why the car is there.

At the gang’s hideout apartment tensions run high as the attractive Gladden stirs up Dohmer in a romantic way, but she wants no part of him. Meanwhile the impatient Blaylock takes out his anger at the delay in fencing the necklace on her. Nat decides to send Gladden to Atlantic City to wait for things to cool down, as the gang waits to sell the hot necklace to a fence in Baltimore. Nat was raised when he was an orphan by Gladden’s father, a professional burglar, who treated him with great kindness and taught him everything he knows about being a thief. He also made Nat promise that if anything happened to him, that he would look after his daughter. For Nat, being loyal and keeping your word means everything.

The story gets complicated when the gang is stopped by a state trooper on their way to Atlantic City and they shoot the trooper, causing an APB put out on them. When Nat sees Gladden in Atlantic City, she stubbornly won’t leave town because of all of her frustration over the fact that he never made any advances to her.

The conclusion involves a chase through the Steel Pier with the crooked cop, Charlie (Bradley), who attempts to murder Nat and get the necklace. The artistic shots of the chase are like those that Orson Welles did in “The Lady from Shanghai.” The film succeeds as a visual feast, which includes shadowy framed scenes and close-ups of the characters sweating during the heist. The film’s weakness is that it came at the end of the film noir cycle, so all the noir devices seemed to be beaten to death.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”