TIMETABLE (director: Mark Stevens; screenwriters: from a story by Robert Angus/Aben Kandel; cinematographer: Charles Van Enger; editor: Kenneth G. Crane; music: Walter Scharf; cast: Mark Stevens (Charlie Norman), King Calder (Joe Armstrong), Felicia Farr (Linda Brucker), Marianne Stewart (Ruth Norman), Wesley Addy (Dr. Paul Brucker), Alan Reed (Wolfe), Rodolfo Hoyos Jr. (Lt. Castro), Jack Klugman (Frankie Page), John Marley (Bobik); Runtime: 79; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Edward L. Rissien/Mark Stevens; UA; 1956)
“It’s a taut thriller with a fine script and acting.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Warning: spoilers throughout.
A gripping film noir about an ace insurance investigator, Charlie Norman (Mark Stevens–he also directs), who successfully plans a complicated train robbery in Arizona and ends up teamed with railroad detective Joe Armstrong (King Calder) as co-leaders of the investigation. The film’s moralistic theme could be that there’s no such a thing as a perfect crime, perfect marriage, or perfect job. It’s a taut thriller with a fine script and acting.
The train conductor notifies someone he believes to be named Dr. Sloan — a telegram was just sent to him in that name — to help a sick passenger. The doctor convincingly says the patient has polio and must as a precaution be removed at the next stop by ambulance and taken to a hospital. The conductor signals ahead for the train to make an unscheduled stop before it reaches Phoenix and allows the doctor entry into the locked baggage room to get his medical bag. The doctor pulls a gun on the baggage room security men and ties them up and injects them with a sleep inducing drug. He then blasts open the safe and steals $500,000. The loot is taken out with him, the patient and his wife, as they all take the ambulance to a helicopter and then instead of flying to their Mexico City rendezvous with Charlie as planned — they make an unscheduled stop to a ranch hiding spot in Riverside, California. Complications had arisen when the phony patient accidentally shot himself and died, as this throws their schedule off and prevents them from being in Mexico.
More complications arise when the police nab the driver of the ambulance (Klugman-his movie debut), who was hired for $5,000 by the owner of the helicopter, Wolfe (Reed). Wolfe was not told about the robbery, but for a nice sum of money he provided the gang with a plane, then a secret burial for their partner, and finally a hideout for the San Francisco married couple who pulled off the train robbery — Dr. Paul Brucker (Addy) and his hot Mexican cabaret singer wife Linda (Farr). Paul lost his medical license, and has been scrapped for dough ever since. He met Charlie when he filed a phony accident claim in which the investigator covered for him.
Even more complications arise when Charlie has to kill Wolfe to prevent him from talking and though he makes it look like a suicide, Joe is suspicious that a cocky type of guy like Wolfe would take his own life. Charlie was supposed to be on vacation with his wife Ruth (Stewart) in Mexico City, but was asked by his boss to handle the case because of his experience. When Paul is shot dead trying to cross the border at Tijuana and his wife escapes, Charlie is ordered to go there with Joe and pick up her trail.
But Charlie plans to go to Argentina with Linda and to keep the robbery money, and through the address he finds in Wolpe’s apartment he tracks down where Linda is hiding in Tijuana and arranges with the crooked bar owner, Bobik (Marley), to get him and Linda phony passports and transportation. But things start closing in on Charlie when Ruth finds the stolen money in his suitcase and Joe puts two and two together after talking with Ruth, and regrettably goes after Joe.
This neat little suspense thriller had two noir themes going for it — the respected veteran insurance-agent-gone-wrong and the mid-life crisis of a conventional man who throws away a wife who loves him and his cozy but empty middle-class existence for a woman he lusts after. Mark Stevens, as the director, handled both themes rather well.
REVIEWED ON 10/9/2002 GRADE: B
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
© ALL RIGHTS RESERVED DENNIS SCHWARTZ