(director: Richard Fleischer; screenwriter: based on the novel by William L. Heath/Sydney Boehm; cinematographer: Charles G. Clarke; editor: Louis Loeffler; music: Hugo Friedhofer; cast: Victor Mature (Shelley Martin), Richard Egan (Boyd Fairchild), Stephen McNally (Harper), Virginia Leith (Linda Sherman), Tommy Noonan (Harry Reeves), Lee Marvin (Dill), Margaret Hayes (Mrs. Emily Fairchild), J. Carrol Naish (Chapman), Sylvia Sidney (Elsie Braden), Ernest Borgnine (Stadt), Dorothy Patrick (Helen Martin), Boyd Morgan (Slick), Brad Dexter (Gil), Bill Chapin (Steve Martin); Runtime: 91; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Buddy Adler; Twilight Time; 1955)
“Any pic that has Ernest Borgnine as a pacifist Amish farmer plunging a pitchfork into the back of the devil character played by Lee Marvin, could have won me over on that alone.“
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Richard Fleischer (“The Boston Strangler”/”Soylent Green”/”The Jazz Singer”)skillfully directs this well-crafted atmospheric violent bank heist pic. It’s based on the story by William L. Heath (it appeared in Cosmopolitan magazine in February 1955) and is written with great dialogue by Sydney Boehm (for example, a heartbroken Richard Egan cries out in bewilderment to his new flame, “She looked awful, didn’t she? Like she’d never been alive,” after viewing his wife’s corpse and recalling that just four hours ago he reconciled with her).
The action scenes are right on target, but the overheated and contrived melodramatic subplots are unconvincing and slow things down considerably.But any pic that has Ernest Borgnine as a pacifist Amish farmer plunging a pitchfork into the back of the devil character played by Lee Marvin, could have won me over on that alone.
Three vicious bank robbers — the cold-blooded candy-chomping safecracker Chapman (J. Carroll Naish),the wisecracking inhaler sniffing killer Dill (Lee Marvin), and the ruthless master-mind gang leader Harper (Stephen McNally) — are strangers posing as traveling salesmen in the small Arizona mining town of Bradenville, who case the bank prior to pulling… a Saturday afternoon holdup at closing time.The trio hole up in the Bradenville Hotel and scheme the heist for a day or so, which gives us a chance to observe life in this quiet town. Twerpy married bank manager Harry Reeves (Tommy Noonan) has the hots for the new hottie nurse in town, Linda Sherman (Virginia Leith), and creepily stalks her. Wealthy young mine owner Boyd Fairchild (Richard Egan) is unhappy and drinks too much because his wife Emily (Margaret Hayes) is unfaithful. Mine supervisor Shelley Martin (Victor Mature) is a happily married family man, whose only concern is that his 10-year-old son (Bill Chapin) questions him why he was not in the war, and sullen librarian Elsie Braden (Sylvia Sidney), from a prominent family, is humiliated to find herself in debt and is so desperate she steals a purse.
It all leads to the climactic bank robbery, where the trigger happy gun-toting robbers kill one customer and wound a bank employee before making their escape in Shelley’s car, with him held as a hostage in an Amish farm outside of town. That’s where the gang intends to transfer the stolen loot into a truck carrying hay, while they ride off in the stolen vehicle. The only trouble is Martin got loose and a bloody shoot-out occurs at the Amish farm.
REVIEWED ON 4/19/2011 GRADE: B