A Movie A Day: Quint on THE BIG STEAL (1949) I hate the thought of spending the night with an empty revolver.
Published at: July 24, 2008, 2:50 p.m. CST by quint
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with today’s installment of A Movie A Day.
[For those now joining us, A Movie A Day is my attempt at filling in gaps in my film knowledge. My DVD collection is thousands strong, many of them films I haven’t seen yet, but picked up as I scoured used DVD stores. Each day I’ll pull a previously unseen film from my collection and discuss it here. Each movie will have some sort of connection to the one before it, be it cast or crew member.]
Today we hit THE BIG STEAL, following the winning team of Jane Greer and Robert Mitchum over from yesterday’s OUT OF THE PAST.
Up front, this movie’s not nearly as good, but it is fascinating watching it back to back with OUT OF THE PAST. In OUT OF THE PAST the two meet in Mexico. Here, the two characters meet in Mexico. In OUT OF THE PAST Greer is a schemer, here she is a schemer, but not nearly as cold-hearted. In the last one, Mitchum got his ass kicked a lot when they fought, same here, even though we know he’ll come out on top in most of the dust-ups.
Basically you have an army guy (Mitchum) being hunted by a man named Captain Vincent Blake and we soon come to discover that Mitchum is being accused of stealing a large sum of money and is hunting for it.
I guess the suspense is supposed to be from not knowing if Mitchum is guilty and trying to recover the stolen money from yet another thief or if he’s just trying to clear his name, but it becomes apparent pretty early on that Mitchum’s a solid hero through and through.
Greer gets mixed up in this when her sleazy boyfriend hits her up for some money, claiming to have a sure thing coming. This guy has the dough and is making the trade-off with some dudes in Mexico for less hot bills.
The flick is lighter, much lighter, than OUT OF THE PAST, playing to the comedy a lot more. Introduced is a very Claude Rains in CASABLANCA-like Mexican police official, Inspector General Ortega (Ramon Novarro) who smells the money and always pops up at the most opportune moments, avoiding bloodshed and forcing the main trio to act nice.
There’s also a great running gag about the name of Capt. Blake. In an earlier scene (the one from the still up above) Blake, played by William Bendix, gets into a fist fight with Mitchum and Mitchum wins (of course he did, or there wouldn’t be a picture), taking his wallet and ID with him, which he uses throughout his search for his money. Of course the real Capt. Blake is always on his heels, so he starts getting really pissed off when people tell him Capt. Blake has already been there.
I wonder if that was taken from something else or if I can say that MIDNIGHT RUN ripped that off straight from this movie, since that’s essentially what happens to Yaphet Kotto’s Alonzo Mosely.
Final Thoughts: The flick is enjoyable, but more of a comedy than a noir. Greer is still beautiful, Mitchum still lazy-eyed and confident, but neither character here is as interesting as their more complex and darker characters in OUT OF THE PAST. Still, once you realize you’re not watching a sister-picture to OUT OF THE PAST you can enjoy the flick for what it is, a cute crime comedy that will never be mistaken for slapstick, but also shouldn’t be considered a heavy noir.