Saturday, July 31, 2021

Movie Reviews: The Big Steal

The Big Steal
directed by Don Siegel

This is often listed as a film noir. I didn't see it that way. I thought it was just a run of the mill action movie with a few twists. 
The director would later go on to helm a number of Clint Eastwood films as well as the 1956 version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. The Big Steal has its fair share of snappy dialogue. "Don't ask questions just take it and like it!" stands out but this is not a noir film. 
It's a crime drama but even more than that it's just a chase drama with the requisite number of double crosses. 
Perhaps at the time of this release car chases were considered more exciting than they would later become but a great deal of this film is consumed by car chases. After the first few I could have done without any more. As usual in these films there's a hypercompetent woman who is (initially) cold.
She and the hero have some witty repartee while they are trying to decide if they like each other, trust each other, and if they should, well you know. US Army Lieutenant Duke Halliday (Robert Mitchum) loses the $300,000 battalion payroll to a robbery set up by smooth crook Jim Fiske (Patric Knowles). Unfortunately for Duke his superior officer, Captain Vincent Blake (William Bendix) thinks that the robbery went down too easily and that Halliday had to be involved.
Not wanting to wait around for what he assumes will be an unfair investigation and conviction Halliday pursues Fiske into Mexico, hoping to retrieve the stolen money and clear his name. 
At least that's what Halliday tells Joan Graham (Jane Greer). Graham is Fiske's ex-fiancee who is after her former lover for $2,000 he stole from her. I don't know why someone who just stole $300,000 would want to also steal $2,000 and break his girlfriend's heart in the process but I guess that's how Fiske does things. Graham is not sure she trusts any man and especially not one who is also traveling under false id, like Halliday. But Graham wants her money back. She might be willing to make a watchful alliance with Halliday, temporarily of course. 
Blake wants Halliday, Fiske and the money back. 
Meanwhile the local police chief Inspector General Ortega (Ramon Novarro) is simply delighted to have all of these Americans show up in his town and give him a chance to practice his English. Or that's what he tells everyone anyway. The film doesn't unduly stereotype Mexicans, considering the times I guess.
The Big Steal
occasionally shows some teeth near the end but it's really a romantic comedy/road trip/buddy action movie that somehow found its way into the noir section. 
Mitchum and Greer seem to be having a good time together. Mitchum makes everything seem natural and as easy as falling off a log. Greer isn't there to scream or faint; she does neither. In fact it's her character who does much of the driving during the chases. 
Studio boss Howard Hughes wanted Mitchum for the male lead because of the actor's recent marijuana arrest. Hughes thought the controversy might drive ticket sales. Hughes didn't want Greer for the female lead. Hughes had unsuccessfully sexually harassed Greer and then tried to ruin her career.
But other leading actresses considered for the part didn't want to be associated with Mitchum at the time because of the marijuana arrest. So Hughes had no choice but to hire Greer for the part. So it goes.
blog comments powered by Disqus