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The Big Steal (1949); Combined thread
Topic Started: Aug 26 2007, 08:25 PM (351 Views)
Laughing Gravy
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The Big Steal (1949) Dir. Don Siegel
RKO Radio Pictures
71 min. / B&W / 1.37:1


Robert Mitchum is chasing Patric Knowles across Mexico; William Bendix is chasing Mitchum; Jane Greer is chasing Knowles, too, but for a different reason than Mitchum is; and police inspector Ramon Navarro is chasing everybody. Oh, and nobody (especially us out here in viewer land) seems to be quite sure why anybody is chasing anybody, particularly because suitcases that are supposed to be full of money or contraband end up being empty.

This is one screwy noir (part of the new Warners boxed set) but I enjoyed it. Don Siegel directed, which is why the whole thing holds together so well even though the movie careens along explaining nothing as it goes. I’d call it a comedy, except it’s so darn violent. It’s too light-hearted to be a true noir, though.

Whatever it is, I sure liked it, and isn't it nice to see the Mexican people treated with such respect in a movie?

Million-dollar Dialog:
"Look out for the cow!"

(Well, anyway, that's something you don't hear in a lot of noirs, now, do you, eh? Do you?)

There's a five-min. featurette on the making of the film (basically, it was a quickie to get Mitchum working after his pot bust, and Lizabeth Scott dropped out in fear it would hurt her career, so Miss Greer, who worked so well with Bob in Out of the Past, was a last-second replacement) plus commentary but alas, no cartoon.
Edited by Laughing Gravy, Jan 2 2018, 08:01 PM.
"I'm glad that this question came up, because there are so many ways to answer it that one of them is bound to be right." - Robert Benchley
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Laughing Gravy
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Oh, c'mon, surely SOMEBODY has a comment to make on this screwy picture! Help me out here, peoples!
"I'm glad that this question came up, because there are so many ways to answer it that one of them is bound to be right." - Robert Benchley
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JazzGuyy
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I just watched this the other night too. As the brief docu in the extras pointed out, this was sort of an attempt to make a screwball noir. I don't think it quite succeeds fully as either a screwball comedy or a noir but it was sort of fun. One thing that fascinated me was the car chases where those 1940s vehicles sway and bounce all over the place. I couldn't help thinking how scary it must have been to be a stunt driver in one of those cars.

The big twist was Bendix playing it straight and Mitchum trying to do some comedic acting and wisecracking.
TANSTAAFL!
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igsjr
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Laughing Gravy
Aug 28 2007, 09:07 PM
Oh, c'mon, surely SOMEBODY has a comment to make on this screwy picture! Help me out here, peoples!

http://blogs.salon.com/0003139/2007/02/18.html

"The final film watched also features William Bendix in the cast—but the Region 2 presentation of The Big Steal is going to literally make you bellow “What a revoltin’ development this is!” For unexplained reasons, Universal has released the colorized version on this disc, and had I known this before I wouldn’t have been so anxious to drop it in my Amazon.co.uk basket. The DVD itself is enough to make one scratch one’s head—how does Universal release under its logo a movie that was a product of RKO when it first appeared in theaters in 1949? (I’m pretty sure this baby is part of Ted Turner’s movie collection.) Also, the packaging of the DVD reads The Big Steal a.k.a. Build My Gallows High: Gallows is the U.K. title (not to mention the original title of the novel written by Daniel Mainwaring, a.k.a. Geoffrey Homes) of the noir classic Out of the Past (1947), and any self-respecting noir fan should know that.

This odious piece of colorized fromage aside, Steal is still a worthwhile movie, reuniting Past’s Mainwaring with the film’s stars, Robert Mitchum and Jane Greer. Big Bad Bob is a GI who’s been framed for a payroll robbery and Janie is the gal who ends up going along for the ride (her fiancé, Patric Knowles, is the man sleepy-eyed Mitch is chasing)—and what a ride it is, a wild chase through Mexico with Bendix as Mitchum’s doggedly determined superior officer hot on our sleepy-eyed hero’s tail for a missing bankroll of $300,000. Steal is a great caper film that sends up many of the noir film’s conventions; it has some truly memorable dialogue (“He’s taking the parrot out for a walk”) and superb direction by the legendary Don Siegel in one of his earliest films. Ramon Novarro (as a Mexican official who regularly mangles the English language) and John Qualen round out the cast."
"Life is in color--but black-and-white is more realistic..." -- Samuel Fuller, director

So many DVDs...so little time...
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George Kaplan
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Laughing Gravy
Aug 26 2007, 08:25 PM
It’s too light-hearted to be a true noir, though.

And too light. We should call it a film blanc.

I imagine that to postwar audiences the increasing use of location shooting in movies came as a breath of fresh air. It's a treat just to watch Mitchum and Greer on the open road in broad daylight, with real landscapes, real buildings, real vegetation, and real dirt. The outdoor scenes, besides opening up the story, furnish the characters with places to go, useful in a cat-and-mouse thriller that tops out at 72 minutes.

And that IS a pretty terrific car chase.
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Paul
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I haven't watched the DVD yet, but I've had a tape copy off of TCM for some time. A romantic-chase-caper film is what I thought it was, not a noir. Sort of something along the lines of "To Catch a Thief." I remember enjoying the hell out of it.

I guess they put it in the "noir" set because:

1. It's in black and white.
2. It's got Robert "Out of the Past" Mitchum and Jane "Out of the Past" Greer.
3. It was made by RKO.
4. Who cares, as long as we got it on DVD.
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panzer the great & terrible
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Lord God, don't let us start taking the marketing people's advice about what is and isn't a noir. They don't give a flyin' heck -- just trying to sell stuff. The main point is, what do we care? We just want to see more old movies on DVD.
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Laughing Gravy
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I agree; they can put The Boy with Green Hair in a noir set if they want to. Your average joe doesn't know or care what noir is, anyway, and your average film fan thinks nearly anything in B&W is noir.
"I'm glad that this question came up, because there are so many ways to answer it that one of them is bound to be right." - Robert Benchley
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panzer the great & terrible
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I had this picture mixed up with another one and never saw it until today. And it's pretty good. Ol' Robert Mitchum is this army guy or criminal or something, and he's being pursued by William Bendix who is a criminal or an army guy or something. It's all about 300 K somebody or other stole from the army or criminals or something. The guy with the money is the fiance of Jane Greer, and we all know how evil she can be.

Well, never mind the plot. This is a decent script with one big laugh, and Don Siegel makes it look a lot better than it should. There are, oh, probably three days of good location work in Mexico, and that makes it better than the average B. Really it's sort of an A Minus. Maybe I'm a little generous but I'll give it four stars out of five.
Life is just a bowl of cherries, it's too mysterious, don't take it serious...
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Laughing Gravy
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I watched this again as I continue to work my way through the Noir sets.
"I'm glad that this question came up, because there are so many ways to answer it that one of them is bound to be right." - Robert Benchley
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The Batman
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I've seen this, it's been a few years and don't remember anything about it, but I did give it a 7/10, so I must have enjoyed it.

Always be yourself! Unless you can be Batman...then always be Batman!
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