Phil Karlson – 5 Against the House (1955)

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Synopsis:
Four college buddies enjoy a night at a Reno casino and overhear a cop saying that robbing the casino “cannot be done.” That gets the brainiest rich kid among them thinking up a plan for the perfect robbery. He convinces the others to join in when they hear that it will only be a college hoax, his plan being to let the police know where the money is afterwards. The thing is, one of his friends has a head injury from the war, and has no intention of returning a dime.

Review:
“Under Karlson’s sharp direction, it becomes easy to forget that this heist for fun plot-line was a crackpot idea and highly unlikely to happen in real life.”

Phil Karlson (“The Phenix City Story”/”Kansas City Confidential”/”Scandal Sheet”) directs with verve this gripping caper thriller based on a Good Housekeeping serialized magazine story that was based on the novel by Jack Finney and is well-written by John Barnwell, William Bowers, Stirling Silliphant and Frank Tashlin.

Four college chums from the fictitious Midwestern University, Al (Guy Madison), Brick (Brian Keith), Roy (Alvy Moore) and Ronnie (Kerwin Mathews), vacation in Reno and while gambling at the crowded Harold’s Casino are told by a cop that this casino is impossible to rob, after being humiliated when falsely accused of abetting a casino robber. Back at the university, the level-headed law student Al, the group’s leader, proposes to his club singer girlfriend Kay (Kim Novak). Kim’s vocals were dubbed by Jo Ann Greer. Meanwhile Al’s best bud, the sweet but volatile Brick, who saved his life in Korea during the war, has the former captain worried that he was released too early from his treatment at the VA’s mental ward for psychological problems caused by the war. In one incident, Brick goes violent on the new boyfriend of his ex-girlfriend and has to be pulled off the boy by Al or he might have murdered him.

By the time the next college vacation period rolls around later in the semester, rich boy Ronnie, whose dad is an oil man and owns a ranch near Reno, comes up with a foolproof scheme for the four roommates to rob the high-security Harold’s Casino that no one thinks can be robbed. Ronnie wants to rob the joint just to know he was able to do it and intends on returning the money. Brick, worried about flunking out of law school, and the always playful wise-cracking Roy, agree. But Ronnie insists they need Al to pull it off. Brick knowing Al wouldn’t agree to such a dumb prank, instead talks him into going with the boys to Reno with Kay, in the trailer Ronnie secretly just purchased, and marrying her in the place that calls itself ‘The biggest little city in the world.’

When Al is told about the heist on the road to Reno he confronts Brick, who pulls a gun and threatens to kill anyone not going along with the heist. Kay is recruited to be the driver of the getaway car.

The implausible heist is pulled off in a plausible enough manner, as the tension mounts when the boys enter the casino in disguises and force the casino money bag man (William Conrad) at gunpoint to cooperate or else. Under Karlson’s sharp direction, it becomes easy to forget that this heist for fun plot-line was a crackpot idea and highly unlikely to happen in real life. But as a movie story, it couldn’t be more entertaining.

— Dennis Schwartz (Ozus’ World Movie Reviews)






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Language(s):English
Subtitles:English, Russian (muxed)

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