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A Movie A Day: THE HOT ROCK (1972)
I’ve been shot at, peed on and robbed and worse is going to happen before it’s done

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 or from my DVR and discuss it here. Each movie will have some sort of connection to the one before it, be it cast or crew member.] Alright, two AMADs in one day! Whoda thunk it? If you’ve been following closely you’ll have noticed I missed a day compiling the Holiday Shopping Guide. This is my catch-up. Make sure you check out the last AMAD column, covering the awesome Elia Kazan flick PANIC IN THE STREETS! This installment will focus on the ‘70s reteaming of Robert Redford and screenwriter William Goldman… in fact, this is the first credited screenplay from Goldman after their incredibly iconic and entertaining BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID. Peter Yates directed this adaptation of a Donald E. Westlake story about a diamond that refuses to get robbed, despite the best efforts of a world class, if unlucky, master thief. And it doesn’t really work... It’s a good movie, don’t get me wrong. There’s too much going for it to completely write it off. Robert Redford, George Segal, Ron Leibman, Paul Sand, Moses Gunn and Zero Mostel (who we’re following over from PANIC IN THE STREETS) are all great in their roles, balancing the humor just right as to not tip the balance into ridiculous territory.

The script is also very strong and I think under different circumstances this would be a movie very well remembered to this day. It just seems to be one of those movies that has everything going for it and then something just doesn’t click right. In short, it’s missing that natural energy and confidence that you can plan for, but can’t always count on. I have to lay some of the blame at the feet of Peter Yates, who I actually like as a director, but even I have to admit that he’s hit and miss. For every BULLITT there’s a fascinating misfire like THE DEEP. Two of his films that I will unabashedly love are MOTHER, JUGS & SPEED and KRULL, but even with KRULL it’s a movie that is missed masterpiece of fantasy. He cast a very dull lead and introduced a badass weapon that ultimately does dick-all but get stuck in a giant monster at the end. This film reminded me of THE DEEP, which was a damn fun book by Peter Bencheley and had some great performances from Robert Shaw, Jacqueline Bisset (and her see-through t-shirt skin-diving opening which is sure to have awakened puberty in many a young boy) and Nick Nolte. It had all that going for it, but it just didn’t click, ending up as a competent film, but not a particularly memorable one. Same goes here.

The flick is a little over 90 minutes long and there are 4 heists, all after the same diamond. Redford and his crew are hired by an African representative at the United Nations to steal a diamond from a museum. Apparently, the UN are debating on whether or not to give his nation back its famous and valuable diamond and he doesn’t trust them to make the right decision, so he goes ahead and looks for people to grab it. Moses Gunn plays Dr. Amusa, the African UN dude and hearing him speak in this movie sends me back to my childhood… I love, love, love THE NEVERENDING STORY and I’ll never forget his weird pointy-head spokesperson for the childlike empress who sends Atreyu on the mission to save Fantasia. I know he’s done bigger and more respectable, like his small part in ROOTS or his stage work, but that’s what nostalgia does for ya’, I guess. Robert Redford is the brains of the outfit, a crook who is great at his job, but seems to always get picked up. It’s almost a pattern with him. In fact, we meet him in jail, as he’s being released. He’s picked up by his well-meaning, but kind of bumbling brother-in-law, a locksmith played by George Segal.

Segal wants into the life of excitement he can only experience second-hand via Redford and has already set up this job. They pull in Ron Leibman, the charismatic New Yorker and getaway driver and Paul Sand, an extra set of hands to pull of the heist. The museum heist is actually really great and executed well. They cause a car accident outside to distract the guards, with Leibman planting himself, fully covered in gore make-up, a few feet from the overturned car. It’s pretty genius, actually, a perfect way to clear the museum and keep the guards occupied, thinking a man is dying outside. Of course, things go wrong at the last minute and one of the group is nabbed… unfortunately for them it’s the one with the diamond, Paul Sand. Sand swallows it and is picked up. The next act is about stealing Sand himself out of prison. It doesn’t end there, with two more heists planned to get the diamond. It spirals out of control so much that Redford becomes obsessed with it. He takes it personally. It’s not about the job anymore. He almost views the diamond as his adversary and the only way he can let it go is to finally get his hand on it.

See, it’s not a bad set-up for a crime comedy and it’s a great cast. Zero Mostel plays Sand’s father and he’s particularly great. I just find Mostel fun to watch. The man uses his face like no one else, his expressions priceless. Final Thoughts: Everyone is great in the movie (keep an eye out for an early, early appearance by Christopher Guest as a cop in the epic break-in to a police precinct), but it just doesn’t work. Shots don’t really flow together, the editing feeling awkward and uneven. I refuse to believe that’s the only problem, though. I think sometimes you can have all the right ingredients, follow the recipe to perfection and the meal just doesn’t come out right. That’s what happened to this movie. It’s okay and worth a watch for what works, just not horribly successful.

Here’s what we have lined up for the next week: Monday, December 1st: WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? (1966)

Tuesday, December 2nd: THE DAY OF THE DOLPHIN (1973)

Wednesday, December 3rd: CARNAL KNOWLEDGE (1971)

Thursday, December 4th: THE CINCINNATI KID (1965)

Friday, December 5th: POCKETFUL OF MIRACLES (1961)

Saturday, December 6th: MIKEY & NICKY (1976)

Sunday, December 7th: TWO MINUTE WARNING (1976)

Tomorrow we follow George Segal over to WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? See you then! -Quint

Previous Movies: June 2nd: Harper
June 3rd: The Drowning Pool
June 4th: Papillon
June 5th: Gun Crazy
June 6th: Never So Few
June 7th: A Hole In The Head
June 8th: Some Came Running
June 9th: Rio Bravo
June 10th: Point Blank
June 11th: Pocket Money
June 12th: Cool Hand Luke
June 13th: The Asphalt Jungle
June 14th: Clash By Night
June 15th: Scarlet Street
June 16th: Killer Bait (aka Too Late For Tears)
June 17th: Robinson Crusoe On Mars
June 18th: City For Conquest
June 19th: San Quentin
June 20th: 42nd Street
June 21st: Dames
June 22nd: Gold Diggers of 1935
June 23rd: Murder, My Sweet
June 24th: Born To Kill
June 25th: The Sound of Music
June 26th: Torn Curtain
June 27th: The Left Handed Gun
June 28th: Caligula
June 29th: The Elephant Man
June 30th: The Good Father
July 1st: Shock Treatment
July 2nd: Flashback
July 3rd: Klute
July 4th: On Golden Pond
July 5th: The Cowboys
July 6th: The Alamo
July 7th: Sands of Iwo Jima
July 8th: Wake of the Red Witch
July 9th: D.O.A.
July 10th: Shadow of A Doubt
July 11th: The Matchmaker
July 12th: The Black Hole
July 13th: Vengeance Is Mine
July 14th: Strange Invaders
July 15th: Sleuth
July 16th: Frenzy
July 17th: Kingdom of Heaven: The Director’s Cut
July 18th: Cadillac Man
July 19th: The Sure Thing
July 20th: Moving Violations
July 21st: Meatballs
July 22nd: Cast a Giant Shadow
July 23rd: Out of the Past
July 24th: The Big Steal
July 25th: Where Danger Lives
July 26th: Crossfire
July 27th: Ricco, The Mean Machine
July 28th: In Harm’s Way
July 29th: Firecreek
July 30th: The Cheyenne Social Club
July 31st: The Man Who Knew Too Much
August 1st: The Spirit of St. Louis
August 2nd: Von Ryan’s Express
August 3rd: Can-Can
August 4th: Desperate Characters
August 5th: The Possession of Joel Delaney
August 6th: Quackser Fortune Has A Cousin In The Bronx
August 7th: Start the Revolution Without Me
August 8th: Hell Is A City
August 9th: The Pied Piper
August 10th: Partners
August 11th: Barry Lyndon
August 12th: The Skull
August 13th: The Hellfire Club
August 14th: Blood of the Vampire
August 15th: Terror of the Tongs
August 16th: Pirates of Blood River
August 17th: The Devil-Ship Pirates
August 18th: Jess Franco’s Count Dracula
August 19th: Dracula A.D. 1972
August 20th: The Stranglers of Bombay
August 21st: Man, Woman & Child
August 22nd: The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane
August 23rd: The Young Philadelphians
August 24th: The Rack
August 25th: Until They Sail
August 26th: Somebody Up There Likes Me
August 27th: The Set-Up
August 28th: The Devil & Daniel Webster
August 29th: Cat People
August 30th: The Curse of the Cat People
August 31st: The 7th Victim
September 1st: The Ghost Ship
September 2nd: Isle of the Dead
September 3rd: Bedlam
September 4th: Black Sabbath
September 5th: Black Sunday
September 6th: Twitch of the Death Nerve
September 7th: Tragic Ceremony
September 8th: Lisa & The Devil
September 9th: Baron Blood
September 10th: A Shot In The Dark
September 11th: The Pink Panther
September 12th: The Return of the Pink Panther
September 13th: The Pink Panther Strikes Again
September 14th: Revenge of the Pink Panther
September 15th: Trail of the Pink Panther
September 16th: The Real Glory
September 17th: The Winning of Barbara Worth
September 18th: The Cowboy and the Lady
September 19th: Dakota
September 20th: Red River
September 21st: Terminal Station
September 22nd: The Search
September 23rd: Act of Violence
September 24th: Houdini
September 25th: Money From Home
September 26th: Papa’s Delicate Condition
September 27th: Dillinger
September 28th: Battle of the Bulge
September 29th: Daisy Kenyon
September 30th: Laura
October 1st: The Dunwich Horror
October 2nd: Experiment In Terror
October 3rd: The Devil’s Rain
October 4th: Race With The Devil
October 5th: Salo, Or The 120 Days of Sodom
October 6th: Bad Dreams
October 7th: The House Where Evil Dwells
October 8th: Memories of Murder
October 9th: The Hunger
October 10th: I Saw What You Did
October 11th: I Spit On Your Grave
October 12th: Naked You Die
October 13th: The Wraith
October 14th: Silent Night, Bloody Night
October 15th: I Bury The Living
October 16th: The Beast Must Die
October 17th: Hellgate
October 18th: He Knows You’re Alone
October 19th: The Thing From Another World
October 20th: The Fall of the House of Usher
October 21st: Audrey Rose
October 22nd: Who Slew Auntie Roo?
October 23rd: Wait Until Dark
October 24th: Dead & Buried
October 25th: A Bucket of Blood
October 26th: The Bloodstained Shadow
October 27th: I, Madman
October 28th: Return to Horror High
October 29th: Die, Monster, Die
October 30th: Epidemic
October 31st: Student Bodies
November 1st: Black Widow
November 2nd: The Ghost & Mrs. Muir
November 3rd: Flying Tigers
November 4th: Executive Action
November 5th: The Busy Body
November 6th: It’s A Mad Mad Mad Mad World
November 7th: Libeled Lady
November 8th: Up The River
November 9th: Doctor Bull
November 10th: Judge Priest
November 11th: Ten Little Indians
November 12th: Murder On The Orient Express
November 13th: Daniel
November 14th: El Dorado
November 15th: The Gambler
November 16th: Once Upon A Time In America
November 17th: Salvador
November 18th: Best Seller
November 19th: The Holcroft Covenant
November 20th: Birdman of Alcatraz
November 21st: The Train
November 22nd: Gunfight At The O.K. Corral
November 23rd: Mystery Street
November 24th: Border Incident
November 25th: The Tin Star
November 26th: On The Beach
November 27th: Twelve O’Clock High
November 28th: Gentleman’s Agreement
November 29th: Panic In The Streets

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