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McClain, an accomplished thief, returns to California after several years' absence and joins an old friend, Gladys, in masterminding a plan for robbing half a million dollars in receipts from the Los Angeles Coliseum while a sell-out football game is in progress. In organizing his gang, McClain subjects possible candidates to a brutal initiation test and comes up with four suitable recruits: gym instructor Bert Clinger, driver Harry Kifka, safecracker Marty Gough, and professional killer Dave Negli. Following weeks of careful preparation, the heist goes as scheduled and the money is hidden in the apartment of McClain's ex-wife, Ellie, who has consented to keep it on the condition that this be McClain's last job. But the next morning, while McClain is out, Ellie's psychotic landlord, Herb Sutro, attempts to assault her and actually kills her, then makes off with the money. A crooked police lieutenant, Walter Brill, investigates the murder and connects it with the stadium robbery; McClain is tortured by the other gang members and accused of stealing the money himself; and in the violent argument that follows, both Gladys and Kifka are killed, though McClain escapes. When Sutro is shot by Detective Brill while resisting arrest, McClain realizes that Brill now has the money and offers to share it with him if he will help eliminate the remaining gang members. Though Brill accepts the proposal and assists McClain in killing his former accomplices, the detective plans to turn a portion of his share over to the authorities and earn a promotion while making it appear that McClain has made off with the rest of the money. As McClain prepares to board a plane for Mexico, however, he recalls his promise to Ellie. Troubled, he must decide whether to escape with the money or turn himself over to the police.