Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Grand Slam (Ad Ogni Costo) (1967)

Directed by Giuliano Montaldo. The original marquee poster for this diamond heist caper reads: "Silence!...One whisper could set off Grand Slam -- the world's most fool-proof alarm!" As is so often the case with caper films, silence is also in order to make sure you don't reveal the ending of this movie to your friends. This is a hell of a lot of fun.

And it includes an essential element of a good caper film: an elite team. There's a safe-cracker, a master thief, a electrical engineer and an international playboy. Their benefactor is played by Edward G Robinson, who taught school for 30 years in Rio de Janeiro while in his spare time planning the perfect crime, raiding the jewel vault across the street.

Robinson's character retires from teaching to gather his team and put the plan into action, using each member for some essential step, the diciest of which involves using his playboy to seduce the only woman (Janet Leigh) with a key critical to the plan. Leigh's character presents a challenge because she is prim and ugly, we see this because she wears glasses.

But don't let that bit of sloppiness wreck this one for you, this is all top-notch suspense and action. When things really come to a boil the advantage changes hands fast and frequently, and not in that new way it's done in the movies, where you're made to feel like an idiot ("Oh. So all along she was actually her daughter? And they planned all this out from the beginning? So that whole car chase, and the falling off the building, and when they argued in front of him, they must have been faking that to trick him? So how did they know he was...I'm confused."). No, this one makes sense!

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