Jack Palance and Shelley Winters in I Died a Thousand Times (1955)


(director: Stuart Heisler; screenwriters: from the book High Sierra by W.R. Burnett/Mr. Burnett; cinematographer: Ted D. McCord; editor: Clarence Kolster; music: David Buttolph; cast: Jack Palance (Roy Earle), Shelley Winters (Marie Gibson), Lori Nelson (Velma), Lee Marvin (Babe Kossuck), Lon Chaney, Jr. (Big Mack), Earl Holliman (Red), Perry Lopez (Louis Mendoza), Dick Davalos (Lon Preisser), Olive Carey (Ma), Ralph Moody (Pa), Mae Clarke (Mabel), James Millican (Jack Kranmer), Howard St. John (Doc Banton), Pedro Gonzalez-Gonzalez (Chico); Runtime: 109; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Willis Goldbeck; Warner Brothers; 1955)

“A remake of Raoul Walsh’s 1941 High Sierra.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A remake of Raoul Walsh’s 1941 High Sierra that is based on noted crime fiction writer W.R. Burnett’s novel; he also provides the screenplay. It’s a remake that was hardly needed, but at least it keeps things the same as the novel and gives the viewer a chance to observe Jack Palance in the role Bogie made classic and Shelley Winters in Ida Lupino’s role. Though both actors acquit themselves well, there’s still no comparison with the original legendary actors. I have a thing about remakes of classics, believing there’s no point to make them.

Old-school professional bank robber Roy Earle (Jack Palance) is sprung on parole from an Illinois prison by dying gang leader Big Mack (Lon Chaney, Jr.) in order to do one last big jewelry heist in a remote resort hotel in the High Sierras and fence the goods in LA. Roy meets in Chicago with crooked ex-cop Jack Kranmer, who runs the operation now that Big Mack is recouping in LA under the care of crooked Doc Banton. Then Roy goes, as ordered, to a hideaway in a fishing resort, near the hotel, where he is forced to work with a couple of punky inexperienced criminals, Red (Earl Holliman) and Babe (Lee Marvin), and a talkative inside man at the hotel — Louis Mendoza. The boys also bring along Marie (Shelley Winters), who soon becomes Roy’s love interest when he realizes how alike they are. On the way over Roy befriends a club-footed 19-year-old girl named Velma and her grandparents, heading to LA from the Midwest. They remind the aging Roy of his own rural farm roots and he pines for the wholesome girl and the possibility of changing his crime life after his final heist. This causes Roy to arrange through Banton’s connections for an operation that cures Velma, but when he asks her to marry him she rejects him for her longtime boyfriend back home.

When the robbery gets botched, Roy goes on the run after he’s double-crossed in LA. The faithful Marie sticks by him even when he wants her to flee and save her own skin. The wounded Roy fulfilling a death wish, gets trapped by the police in the majestic California High Sierras and in a circus-like atmosphere is killed by the police sharpshooters.

I had no problems with the pic, in fact it works rather well. If it weren’t an unnecessary remake I would think more highly of it.


REVIEWED ON 12/23/2004 GRADE: B-