CRASHOUT (director/writer: Lewis R. Foster; screenwriters: Hal E. Chester/Cy Endfield; cinematographer: Russell Metty; editor: Robert Swink; music: Leith Stevens; cast: William Bendix (Van Morgan Duff), Luther Adler (Pete Mendoza), Arthur Kennedy (Joe Quinn), Gene Evans (Maynard ‘Monk’ Collin), William Talman (Swanee Rawlins), Marshall Thompson (Billy Lang), Beverly Michaels(Alice Mosher), Gloria Talbott (Girl on Train), Adam Williams(Fred), Percy Helton (Doctor Louis Barnes), Adele St. Mauer(Mrs. Mosher), Edward Clark (Conductor), Morris Ankrum (Head guard), Tom Dugan (Ed, the Bartender); Runtime: 82; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Hal E. Chester; Republic Pictures Home Video; 1955)
“Hard-boiled prison escape flick–one of the best of its kind.“
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Lewis R. Foster (“Manhandled”/”Hong Kong”/”Armored Car “) is co-writer with Hal E. Chester and the uncredited Cy Endfield, and is director of this hard-boiled prison escape flick–one of the best of its kind. One day 38 prisoners try to escape from a Colorado prison, but only 6 men escape without being killed or captured. The prison leader, bank robber and murderer, Van Morgan Duff (William Bendix) escapes but is wounded. The other 5 escapees are a bank embezzler Joe Quinn (Arthur Kennedy) and the other four are murderers: Pete Mendoza (Luther Adler), Luther “Swanee” Remsen (William Talman), Maynard “Monk” Collins (Gene Evans) and, a youngster who accidentally killed someone, Billy Lang (Marshall Thompson). The men hide out in an abandoned mine shaft that only Van knew existed. Because the wounded Van is too weak to travel when the coast is clear, he offers to split with the men the $180,000 he hid from his last bank robbery on a mountain top if they help him get a doctor and help him get to where he stashed the loot. The men agree. They lure a local doctor (Percy Helton) to a closed gas station in the middle of the night and force him to operate on Van in the mine shaft. After the successful operation they leave the doctor bound and gagged, but the sadistic Van returns with his favorite henchman Swanee to kill the doctor without the knowledge of the others.
The men are hunted by the police in a wide manhunt across the state and leave a trail of bloodshed, as they get picked off one by one. One escapee, Billy, goes soft and tries to leave the gang with a girl (Gloria Talbot) he met on the train and fell in love with, but is knifed to death by the lapsed reverend, Swanee, in back of the station. A motor-cyle cop is run down by Swanee in front of the bar where the felons just took the clothes of the men patrons and robbed the place, but before the cop dies he fatally plugs the women hungry Pete. While holding a family captive in their farm house, a mechanic (Adam Williams) who was roughed up manages to awaken from his beating to kill Monk with a Molotov cocktail. In the end, the psychopathic killer Van and the greedy Joe fight for the stolen loot atop a snowy mountain.
The crisply told story keeps things moving at a quickened pace and is exciting, even if it leads to a predictable conclusion. It’s a finely executed low-budget film noir, that was quite violent for its day. Bendix is absolutely chilling as the ruthless gang leader, who views everyone as a sucker. Beverly Michaels has a nice supporting turn as the single parent mother whose farm has been invaded by these monsters, but manages to humanize Joe and plant seeds in his head that he can be rehabilitated.
REVIEWED ON 2/20/2011 GRADE: A-
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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