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Armored Car Robbery (1950) was directed by Richard O. Fleischer, a master of film noir "B" movies at RKO early in his career, and stars noir veterans Charles McGraw, Adele Jergens and William Talman. The movie has been called "the quintessential low-budget heist melodrama."
Armored Car Robbery also has the distinction of being one of the first of the "heist" movies, a subgenre of the crime film that did not come into its own until the 1950s. Before that, the Hollywood studios honored the Motion Picture Production Code's edict that "Methods of crime shall not be explicitly presented or detailed in a manner calculated to...inspire imitation." With the threat of television causing dwindling audiences in theaters, however, producers began bending the rules a bit. With its blunt title, explicit violence and detailed account of the title crime's planning and execution, Armored Car Robbery tested the waters and helped set the stage for such other heist films as The Asphalt Jungle (1950) and The Killing (1956).
Talman, later to play the ever-losing prosecuting attorney Hamilton Burger on the "Perry Mason" TV series, plays the vicious crook who masterminds a scheme to rob an armored car on its last pickup of the day. McGraw is the tough-as-nails cop on the gang's trail, and Jergens is Talman's hardboiled stripper girlfriend. Shot with the requisite noir camera angles and deep shadows standing in stark contrast to sunlit street scenes, the movie amounts to a documentary of Los Angeles in the 1950s with such locales as Wrigley Field, a ballpark, the harbor and a sleazy burlesque theater. Also put to effective use is Long Beach's oil derrick-dotted landscape.
Director Fleischer, the son of legendary animator Max Fleischer, would later move on to big-budget productions such as 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954) and Doctor Dolittle (1967). But his claim to auteur status comes from this RKO period, when his low-budget films noir also included the classic The Narrow Margin (1952), again starring McGraw.
Producer: Herman Schlom
Director: Richard O. Fleischer
Screenplay: Gerald Drayson Adams, Robert Angus, Earl Felton, from story by Robert Leeds
Cinematography: Guy Roe
Original Music: Paul Sawtell (uncredited)
Art Direction: Albert S. D'Agostino, Ralph Berger
Editing: Desmond Marquette
Cast: Charles McGraw (Lt. Jim Cordell), Adele Jergens (Yvonne LeDoux), William Talman (Dave Purvis), Douglas Fowley (Benjamin 'Benny' McBride), Steve Brodie (Al Mapes), Gene Evans (William 'Ace' Foster).
by Roger Fristoe