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HUBERT CORNFIELD'S TRUCKER HEIST FILM NOIR 'PLUNDER ROAD'

Title: PLUNDER ROAD Year: 1957 Rating: ****

Like ODD MAN OUT, director Hubert Cornfield's PLUNDER ROAD is really a post-heist thriller as the opening heist is a nifty ten minute train-in-the-rain robbery with three trucks and five men...

And along the way — while nitro balances inside one vehicle — each character has their own foreboding self-narration ("If we hit a bump, we're all angels!"): Yet things really kick into gear once the men have that "900 mile" slog for the border... 

Including Gene Raymond paired with the least famous but most memorable and effective character, an edgy ex race-car driver played by Steven Ritch (also the writer), whose sullen I could have been a contender style monologue not only sets his own stage but orchestrates their particular ride's cadence, full of jittery nerves, like anything can happen, most likely bad, contrasting with Raymond's cool lead: And truck number two holds the token Noir born-losers in Wayne Morris as a soft-spoken yet ultimately lethal Hollywood stuntman, and a daydreaming "here's what I'll do with my share" Elisha Cook Jr. (while the last ride's gum-chewing Stafford Repp is so optimistic and likeable he's just bound to die first)...

Nora Hayden serving Steven Ritch and Gene Raymond

Leaving the one major miscast in Raymond's girl, waiting in Los Angeles for the slow-burn third-act escape attempt: a lethargic and rather plain-looking Jeanne Cooper...

Who'd have been better played by a mid-point truck stop waitress: And Nora Hayden has all the femme fatale ingredients yet is wasted serving coffee, and, following a "born criminal" instinct, she even desires to join the truckers...

Ironically, last but not least, director Hubert Cornfield would end his Hollywood career in a similarly themed THE NIGHT OF THE FOLLOWING DAY where another group of eclectic and mismatched, similarly flawed thieves — trapped and claustrophobic within a contained setting — put their mission in jeopardy by their own personal flaws. The difference is these settings are mobile, and the director succeeds in keeping trapped isolation literally moving. A great tagline would be: It's Purgatory on Wheels!

Doomed losers Elisha Cook Jr. and Wayne Morris in PLUDER ROAD
Scene-stealing Steven Ritch and Gene Raymond in PLUDER ROAD
Scene-stealing Steven Ritch and Gene Raymond in PLUDER ROAD
Scene-stealing Steven Ritch and Gene Raymond in PLUDER ROAD
Stafford Repp, Wayne Morris, Elisha Cook Jr. make for an Asphalt Jungle group in Plunder Road
Wayne Morris in the last film before his suicide getting lethal in PLUNDER ROAD
Gene Raymond, Steven Ritch and Nora Hayden in PLUNDER ROAD
Even the PLUNDER ROAD Blu Ray thinks Nora Hayden should have been the lead ingenue
Jeanne Cooper, Gene Raymond and Steven Ritch have lunch in PLUNDER ROAD

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