Year: 1950

Director: RIchard Fleischer

Cast: Charles McGraw, William Talman, Adele Rogers

Director Richard Fleischer had a paranoid career as a moviemaker. There was the Richard Fleischer who made all those overblown big studio special effect abominations like “Dr. Doolittle,” “Amityville 3_D,” “The Jazz Singer,” and “Fantastic Voyage.” Then there was the Richard Fleischer who made some of the tightest nifty crime thrillers ever like “The Boston Strangler,” “10 Rillington Street,” “Follow Me, Quietly,” “The Narrow Margin,” “The Clay Pigeon” and “Armored Car Robbery.” Fleischer was no auteur but did a solid craftsman like job. Over the course of his career his output was always erratic and in his later years films like “The Don is Dead” was generally poorly received and of deteriorating quality.

“Armored Car Robbery” is a sharp little “B” thriller that starts at a fast pace and does not let up. Dave Purvis (William Talman) is the brains behind an armored car heist that goes wrong. The plan is to rob an armored truck in front of Wrigley Field in Los Angles however; things go wrong when the cops arrive quicker than anticipated. Bullets fly and the chase to capture the criminals is on. Charles McGraw stars as Lt. Jim Cordell who loses his partner in the shoot-out and is stopping at nothing to get the killers. Purvis and his gang of three escape but one them Benny McBride (Douglas Fowley) is wounded. Benny needs the money to support his stripper wife, Yvonne (Adele Jergens) and her expensive taste. Unknown to Benny, Purvis and Yvonne are sleeping together and planning to get rid him in the process. Things continue to go wrong for Purvis and his gang, “Ace” Foster (Gene Evans) takes off, and Al Mapes (Steve Brodie) is captured by Cordell and squeals on Purvis who up until then was the only unknown to the police of the four men involved.

Charles McGraw, the man with the gravel voice, is perfect as the tough weary and determined Lt. Jim Cordell, a precursor to his role in Fleischer’s film noir gem “The Narrow Margin” a few years later. McGraw was a fixture in crime films including “Border Incident,” “T-Men,” “The Killers” and the previously mentioned “The Narrow Margin.” William Tatam makes a terrific sleazy criminal as Dave Purvis, the mastermind of the botched robbery who’s overly precautious personality makes him continually changes his address and cuts all the labels from his clothes. Talman became better known later on in TV for his role as District Attorney Hamilton Burger who always lost his case in “Perry Mason.” Adele Jergens strikes the right cord as Yvonne the sluttish money hungry stripper wife. Jergens career lasted through 1956, though mostly in small roles and some T.V.

“Armored Car Robbery” is a nice little heist film, one of the first, in what would soon become a sub-genre of the crime film. A stripped down forerunner of later heist films such as “The Asphalt Jungle,” “The Killing,” and more recently “The Bank Job”. You get some nice views of 1950’s L.A. with much of the filming on location on the streets of Los Angeles including minor league ballpark, Wrigley Field. This contributes to the gritty and documentary feel of the film. It makes you wonder why so many films today cannot accomplish in two and a half hours, what they do here in less than 70 minutes.