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RICHARD FLEISCHER DRIVES THE NOIR 'ARMORED CAR ROBBERY'

Always Ultra Serious Charles McGraw Blasting Away YEAR: 1950
The same year John Huston brought us one of the greatest Film Noir offerings, THE ASPHALT JUNGLE... centering on a pivotal heist following a meticulous setup that turns into an inevitably violent aftermath... a comparably unknown director, Richard Fleischer, had his own heist to reveal, and with a title like ARMORED CAR ROBBERY, you know exactly what you're in for... Somewhat...

With a title describing the entire plot, there's plenty to go right and wrong in the process — depending what side you're on, and how and when the tables turn. Equally balancing the story between cops and robbers, the good guys are led by Charles McGraw, who would work under Fleischer in both of their most famous Noir vehicles, THE NARROW MARGIN... But the real star is an actor who, before losing every case to PERRY MASON on television, was just beginning a decade-long path into the, at that point, unnamed crime genre... the French translation for Dark Film. Also, Talman would steal, just a year after this ROBBERY, a picture from two giants, Robert Mitchum and Robert Ryan, in a Law Noir titled THE RACKET as a overly idealistic young cop who jumps the gun a bit too soon...

William Talman slips out of yet another bulwark
As heist leader Dave Purvis, Talman is more of the guy he'd bring to life in another future flick — that being Ida Lupino's THE HITCH-HIKER, where two men are held captive, under his menacing gun and venomous aura, for the entire picture...

And for at least half of this one, the same thing occurs only in a more subtle fashion as Douglas Fowley, Steve Brodie (usually a villain and here a perfectly flakey low-rent convict) and one other fella are holed up under Talman's strict, narrowed eyes in a waterfront shack after — during the most suspenseful roadblock scenes following the ROBBERY — they elude the cops, and wind up killing Charles McGraw's beloved lifelong partner, played by former KING KONG and future IN COLD BLOOD veteran actor James Flavin....

Talman takes precautionary aim at McCraw behind his hideout
What's really important is the heist, which, unlike ASPHALT JUNGLE or Stanley Kubrick's pseudo-remake, THE KILLING, happens right off the bat...

But that doesn't mean the most important, plot-igniting element is rushed: Taking place outside Wrigley Stadium, Los Angeles, where Talman's Purvis learns how quick the cops respond to a (his) false alarm, we hear the baseball game from a transistor radio — sort of:

Actually, the sound of the crowd cheering to the game being described by a commentator takes the place of what's usually an edgy music score during this kind of high-octane suspense — almost as if the heist itself... involving the crooks dressed in workman's garb along with their vehicle, supposedly "broken down" and parked in front... is a game in itself. Meanwhile, during the moment of truth, the car ignites in a burst of smoke to blind a few curious cops and security guards... And although we knew something was about to happen, it's a thrilling moment and a fantastic visual...

Charles McGraw and James Flavin are the cops
In a sense, the rudimentary casing and heist is liken to its very own short film wherein the crescendo is a cop being conked over the head with a gas can...

Fleischer, from his sparse Noir beginnings to edgy 1970's Neo Noir flicks, including MR. MAJESTYK, SEE NO EVIL and THE DON IS DEAD, keeps the action flowing with the aid of meticulous editing. His films have always had a grainy look, and play out like crime-based jigsaw puzzles — each piece taking their time to fit, and then, like ARMORED CAR ROBBERY, the pace picks up as the characters are narrowed into a desperate race to survive. Meanwhile, Talman, unlike ASPHALT's hired muscle, Sterling Hayden (or Hayden in THE KILLING), is anything but an ambiguous Noir leading man/crook, stealing cash for "understandable" reasons or, as repeated too many times by Noir historians, because of the "demise of the American Dream"...

Score from the ROBBERY: ****
Although, as a determined killer and professional thinking-man's thief, there are particular moments where a glimpse of affinity shows within the square-jawed mug: Which means there's a sprinkling of soap operatic melodrama, like any a good Noir: The first guy he lets in on the score is a personal friend, married to our token ingenue/dame in Virginia Mayo-lookalike, Adele Jergens, playing a stripper with the heart of black ice. She loves her lover — that being Talman — and despises her husband, and if you compare the dame (a sultry Femme bordering on Fatale) with the coldblooded killer — watch closely and you may just find he has a slight edge on sympathy, or empathy, or something... humanlike... Not to forget our equally tough tough guy McCraw — as a cop he doesn't sit on the sidelines or mope in his car, waiting to strike...

While the plot, as mentioned earlier, involves both straight and crooked characters in a perfect hybrid, the action keeps them equally busy, desperate, determined and, along with the director, it's a three-way match made in heaven, and more than just the average Noir programmer it's known (or mostly unknown) for being.
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