GRAND SLAM (Ad ogni costo)

(director: Giuliano Montaldo; screenwriters: Milo Roli/story by Paolo Bianchini & Augusto Caminito; cinematographer: Antonio Macasoli; editor: Nino Baragli; music: Sergio Bardotti/Ennio Morricone; cast: Janet Leigh (Mary Ann), Robert Hoffmann (Jean-Paul Audry), Klaus Kinski (Erich Weiss), Riccardo Cucciolla (Agostino Rossi), George Rigaud (Gregg), Adolfo Celi (Mark Milford), Edward G. Robinson (Prof. James Anders); Runtime: 119; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Harry Colombo/George Papi; Blue Undergound; 1967-Italy/W.Germany/Spain-in English)

“It’s noted for having one of the best twist endings ever.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Giuliano Montaldo (“Machine Gun McCain”) directs this formulaic heist thriller that follows along the same lines as The Killing (1956), Rififi (1955) and Ocean’s Eleven (1960), but this derivative film is only slightly better than the ponderous latter mentioned film. It’s taken from a story by Paolo Bianchini & Augusto Caminito and written by Milo Roli. It’s noted for having one of the best twist endings ever, which gets no argument from me. But despite its few plusses it never makes the grade as one of those heist films you must see.

Professor James Anders (Edward G. Robinson) retires unfulfilled from teaching at the Sacred Heart American School in Rio de Janeiro after thirty years and smiles as the uniformed schoolchildren sing farewell before he hops a plane to NYC, where he meets his childhood big-time gangster friend he hasn’t seen for over forty year named Mark Milford (Adolfo Celi). He gets Mark to back his heist plan and provide him with four elite international criminals to rob $10 million in diamonds from an impenetrable Rio de Janeiro vault, using the Grand Slam 70 alarm system, during the city’s Carnival.

Klaus Kinski plays the New York based borderline psychotic, an ex-Nazi soldier who is made the strongarm leader of the team; Riccardo Cucciolla is the meek Italian electrician expert brought in to handle that electric eye beam problem; George Rigaud is the proud London safecracker (supposedly the fastest in the world, yet we are supposed to believe he works as a butler) and Robert Hoffmann is the gutless handsome playboy who must lure the Diamond Building’s mousy secretary Mary Ann (Janet Leigh) so he can borrow the invaluable key she keeps with her in her handbag (that such a valuable item would be so insecurely kept and by a mere secretary stretches one’s belief to the max) for thirty minutes to give to the safecracker so he can get into the vault.

It’s one of those precision robberies where everything is meticulously planned and must run like clockwork, but even if it does there’s the human factor to consider such as double-crosses. What the film lacked was credibility for the much too complex heist and the required white-knuckler tension. Robinson, the heist mastermind, only appears briefly in the beginning and at the end, in what amounts to only a cameo. This is Kinski’s pic to steal, and he’s up to it as he snarls like a madman and brings Neanderthal violence into the brainy caper. The background shots of the colorful Carnival spice up the unremarkable story, but it never fully works because the heist was never convincing–everything seemed farfetched and it relied too much on surprises to pull it through.